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Mae Fang Luang Foundation

Article - December 5, 2012
Real socioeconomic development rooted in a firm belief in self-sufficiency and pioneering people-centric principles
In 1987, Princess Srinagarindram, the late Princess Mother, initiated the Doi Tung development project. She was a pioneer in people-centric principles and adapted post-harvest processing of farming activities to Doi Tung in order to transform the illicit opium crops of the infamous Golden Triangle into alternative crops.

At 87, she worked in a holistic and integrated manner gaining support for the project from all stakeholders: the government as well as non-governmental organisations, the private sector and local communities. The various hill tribe people, to whom she was a special patron, called her Mae Fah Luang: “Royal Mother from the Sky”, or “The Heavenly Royal Mother”.

The Mae Fah Luang Foundation gradually grew from these beginnings. Established to preserve the work of the Princess Mother in improving social and economic development while supporting local art and culture, the foundation went on to represent one of the world’s foremost promoters of sustainable alternative livelihood development.

M.R. Disnadda Diskul, Secretary General of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, comments, “From the 1960s to the 1990s, everyone knew about the Golden Triangle and the border between Myanmar and Laos. But who actually solved the issues there? The UN had discussions with the King, after which he initiated this development work himself in the hills, exactly where the King’s mother was, with the introduction of the substitution crop. So, the King started that, but his mother learnt from him, and she introduced substitution work. She started with the alternative livelihood development approach.”
Trying to determine the skills each community had, the Princess Mother found that many women in the region were accomplished at cross stitch. Though missionaries in the past had taken the women’s work to market, returning later with their earnings, the Princess Mother set up a fund so she could pay cash. The cross stich work was then taken to Bangkok, where it was converted into placemats, cushions, blouses and so on.

“Today we have about 300 people working on the looms. The Foundation is self-sufficient too – we do not receive any money from donations. You have to operate your business in a social manner, otherwise how will you remain sustainable? The King’s mother was a pioneer in social enterprise,” says Mr Diskul, adding that education is also a central precept in the foundation’s development work. “The Princess Mother was also involved in education, and that is what sustains the entire project and helps these communities to help themselves, which is key. Once you solve the more immediate problems, the priority is education. But health comes first, followed by food, and then education.”

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16/09/2013  |  21:25
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Good work, keep it up Mae Fang Luang