Our Initiatives function to uplift our ethos: to conserve, sustain, and educate
OurLand functions on three main pillars, conservation, sustainability, and education.
First, and foremost, we are a conservation company. We work to see a Western Forest Complex thriving through the efforts of local communities, because we know that a healthy forest can provide healthy ecosystems and livelihoods for those around it.
In order to conserve wild spaces, we must diligently work to live lives more integrated with nature. We live sustainably, because this is integral to the survival of not just our species, but the ecosystems of Earth as we know them.
Our efforts would all be for naught, however, if we didn't expand our circle of influence and work to educate both those closest to the WEFCOM about conservation and sustainability as well as the next generation of conservationists.
Our cycle of conserving, sustaining, and educating is a loop with blurry edges. All are necessary for the other to survive, influencing and building on one another.
Reforestation and Regeneration
OurLand is strategically reforesting and regenerating the wildlife corridor in which we operate as well as collaborating with local actors working in nationally protected wildlife areas. We currently manage 27 rai (12 acres) of the corridor. Majority of the 26 rai is a secondary forest, in regrowth since 2013. We use the Assisted Natural Regeneration method, promoting seed dispersal and supporting bird species on the land.
We also partner with our local community to preserve, protect, and reforest land outside of our corridor. OurLand manages a 13 rai reforestation site situated next to the Wang Dong Anamai Medical Center. Designed as an agroforestry plot from the ground up, the 900 tree plot is irrigated, and has annual checks on the status of the trees.
Human Elephant Coexistence
Around our ecovillage, we prioritize agroforestry, planting Indian Plum, Jack Fruit, Mango, Mangosteen, Longans, and Banana to name just a few. The primary fruit bearing trees on the reserve is Mango, which attracts wildlife like elephants and deer during the months of March to May. Going forward, reforestation plots will see an increasing focus on agroforestry, so as to provide a balance of benefits to both the wildlife and the local communities. We will continue to experiment with shared human-wildlife spaces, developing new techniques and systems for promoting human-wildlife-coexistence in the region.
We also support our local community human-elephant-coexistence measures by expanding ethical ecotourism that focuses on community projects in this space.
Snake Rescue and Rehabilitation
Snakes are an integral part of ecosystems in Southeast Asia, however, people tend to be wary of the creatures. We work to alleviate the fear of snakes through educating our local community as well as international groups about the wild snakes of the area.
Our rescue center has rescued, rehabilitated, and released over 300 wild snakes that have wandered into human spaces. We foster relationships with our community so that they call us to rescue these ecologically important animals rather than harming them.
We also care for a few rescued snakes that cannot be released back into the wild.
Our ecovillage also functions as an education center. We take student groups, members of the local community, and engaged tourists through our reserve, ecovillage, and local conservation projects. We also facilitate a connection with the natural world through new-normal online courses. We believe that by facilitating meaningful experiences in nature that people will be less likely to harm the natural world and more likely to conserve wild spaces.
We take our groups to engage with our local community to learn and collaborate on projects from human-wild-life-coexistence to innovative, grass-roots recycling initiatives.
OurLand's ecovillage is off grid and working towards complete self-sufficiency and carbon neutrality. We power our facilities off of solar, which is now at .5 kiloWatts and now powers 25 lights, 10 fans, 20 mobile charging stations, water pumps, automated computer chips, and 220 Volt laptop charging stations.
While most people relate energy to electrical energy, its important address the other forms of energy used in the Eco village, like energy used for cooking. While in the initial years, OurLand used traditional LPG gas, since 2019, OurLand setup its own Biogas unit, built by the Homebiogas company. The unit, which provides 2.5 hours of cooking per day, runs on waste food and is a highly effective and hassle free way of producing energy. We also occasionally use cow and chicken manure to fuel to biogas system.
One of the key challenges faced at OurLand is water access - a pressing issue not just for us but also for our local and global communities. In the rainy season we diligently harvest rain water. However, water is scarce during the dry season, leading to human-elephant-conflict in the region as the large mammals raid water stores from the local community. We are working to solve this challenge by creating water banks and other artificial watering holes. In 2021, OurLand will examine methods of replenishing ground water with the use of swales
Currently, the OurLand ecovillage utilizes over half of its roof space to collect rainwater which meets water needs within the ecovillage for five to six months of the year.
When we dig watering holes, we also create a mud that can be used for natural mud brick building. We have now created a two story mud-house in our ecovillage, decreasing the need for concrete. OurLand's first mud house was completed in 2020 and used 1,350 mud bricks in its construction. It consists of a 4mx4m bedroom, veranda, bathroom and an additional attic bed-room on the second floor. We are now considering other mud construction methods like rammed earth techniques.
Clean up Events
In addition to working to reduce our own waste and recycle what we must at the local community plastic recycling center. OurLand has organized three clean up events with local schools in Kanchanaburi, both to reduce the waste in the area and also prevent possible ingestion by wildlife. Clean up activities have included key members of society like village heads, regional police teams, local Thai military members and the local health center.
Clean up events develop a consciousness in the community surrounding waste related issues and also greatly boost student morale as they see adult role models taking an active effort in keeping their community clean.
Kanchanaburi province has the highest rate of pesticide use in all of Thailand, so we are pioneering an organic farming initiative in the area with our organic farm in partnership with local refill station and cafe called 3199. Our farm produces salad greens like Red Oak, Green Oak and Rocket, providing to restaurants in the greater Kanchanaburi region. We also use our small plot as an educational space to teach children in the Wang Dong and Tha Manao village school.
OurLand provides a unique opportunity for international schools to integrate nature conservation and sustainability into their course programs. The experiences offered at OurLand foster innate connection to nature while simultaneously pushing students to think critically about environmental challenges facing Thailand and how these problems are further attached to social and economic problems.
OurLand is unique in that we offer interdisciplinary consideration and hands-on experience of the multifaceted sustainability and conservation problems.
Study Abroad Programs
OurLand works with international study groups to facilitate short term educational, mid-term volunteer, and gap year experiences. Through the lenses of conservation and sustainability, we work young people out of their comfort zones while catalyzing self-discovery. We trust that the young leaders we work with have much to meaningfully contribute to their local, national, and international communities. Our goal is to invite discussion, exchange, and inspire our students to seek out their own callings, providing guidance and support along the way.
In the time of COVID-19, like others, we ventured into the online education space. OurLand functions as an experiential learning venue, and we wanted to carry this concept through the screen. This is why we are supporting our online students to take on localized projects.
Once students understand the core concepts, our next objective is to encourage the students to try to execute some of these ideas in their local area. One such project is the “Your OurLand” project, which inspires students to imagine what a “local” version of OurLand would look like. This would mean looking into a physical location where conservation or regeneration can take place, educating themselves about land deeds, how to obtain water, what kind of eco construction material needs to be used, provoking our students to question how and where nature should exist and how to integrate with wild spaces no matter their location.
We work with Wang Dong and Tha Manao Village schools to educate students about nature conservation and sustainability. We have conducted snake education courses, plastic awareness, insect education as in-classroom sessions and also excursions to plastic recycling centers, Elephant Sanctuaries, Beekeeping farms and Wild tree nurseries.
In addition to this OurLand is in the process of setting up a full cycle organic farm education program with students of the 4-6th grade at the Wang Dong Village School. The program will see the setup of a fully solar powered organic farm which will produce food for about 40 students; an in-classroom session that will help students understand the science of farming; and daily tasks which will fully engage and integrate students into the farming process. The school which currently has 190 students currently buys most of its ingredients from local markets. The objective over the next 3 years, would be to engage lower grade levels and produce majority of the food required within the schools organic farm.
OurLand also educates students of the Bamboo school Orphanage on similar topics, and organizes and trains the orphanage's snake catching team. Situated in Bong Ti, close to the Thai Myanmar border, the school gets several visits from the serpent world.