COVID-19 relief from the EU reaches Mekong forest communities
In addition to sharing PPE, RECOFTC conducted a survey of forest communities across 30 provinces in Thailand in April 2020. The findings show that indigenous and local communities, especially those living in remote and highland areas, are struggling to access the internet to receive vital news and information. Two-thirds of the respondents said they have an unstable mobile internet connection. More than 17 percent said they have no internet connection. Others are unable to fully use internet technology for work because they can’t afford it or lack knowledge about online conferencing and other web tools.
Community forests, a source of resilience
Forest communities have suffered from the pandemic in many ways. Movement restrictions have limited some forest patrolling. This has emboldened illegal loggers. Lockdown measures have hampered farmers. Migrant workers have lost jobs and many do not have the ability or the internet connectivity to work remotely or online from their homes in the forest communities they have returned to. They are all facing hardships beyond health concerns.
The PPE will help the villagers adapt their lives to the new social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the pandemic harshly reveals the economic vulnerabilities of these communities that live in and near forests. Their safety net is their community forest, where they can find food, fuelwood, medicines and other forest products.
“The pandemic is another reminder of the importance of protecting our forests, not only to provide for the millions of people living who depend on them for life and livelihood but also as a barrier to prevent future zoonotic diseases,” says Robin Aus Der Beek, project coordinator at RECOFTC for the Voices for Mekong Forests project.
This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of RECOFTC and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.