Monoculture Papers

Impacts of Monoculture:
The Case of Eucalyptus Plantations in Thailand

a paper for the
Monocultures: Environmental and Social Effects and Sustainable Alternatives Conference

June 2-6 1996, Songkhla, Thailand

prepared by
Areerat Kittisiri
Rural Reconstruction and Friends Association (RRAFA), Bangkok, Thailand


Eucalyptus is Australia’s native tree. There are over 600 species of them but the most popular species are E. kamaldulensis and E. golbulus. It is widely promoted for the following reasons:
  1. It is a fast-growing tree so it is suitable for short-term purposes.
  2. It is tolerant to climate and arable land, unfertile soil even when there is a 2-3 month or longer flood.
  3. It is strongly resistant to disease, and easy to grow. In addition, animals do not eat its leaves, so it is easy to look after and plant.
  4. Its wood is useful in many ways. Its trunk is straight and the wood is relatively strong. So, it is suitable to make lumber, process as plywood, as pulp for paper, fire wood, construction and charcoal.
  5. It can also be used as wind-breaking fence, perfume, bee raising and decorating trees.

Background of Eucalyptus in Thailand

It was first planted at Wannakam Experimental Station, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai in 1950. The best growing species was E. kamaldulensis.
During 1964-1965, there was a very important trial. A survey for raw material for pulp, organized by the Thai government and UN started it. A Scot expert and Thai forestry academics brought in 15 species of eucalyptus from Australia to be planted in 4 stations in different regions of Thailand. They were:
  • Experimental Station at Bokeo-Boluang, Hot District of Chiang Mai
  • Experimental Station at Lumpao-Lumsai, Muang District of Kanchanaburi
  • Experimental Station at Huay Tha, Kantrarom District of Sisaket
  • Experimental Station at Huang Mut, Na San District of Surat Thani

The experiment showed that the best species was E. kamaldulensis, and the strongest seed was from Huay Tha Station.
During 1976-1977, eucalyptus was seriously promoted as a substitute to natural forests which had been destroyed at the rate of 100,000 rai per year. Since then, eucalyptus has been widely spread.

Thai Government’s Policy in Favour of Eucalyptus

The boom of eucalyptus in Thailand happened with the gvernment’s support and with the push of foreign investers. Its purpose was to provide enough raw material for the pulp & paper industry and the purpose of selling seedlings.

Eucalyptus Promotion
  • In 1950, eucalyptus trees were first brought to Chiang Mai Province.
  • During 1964-1965, there was a survey for raw material for pulp. With the cooperation of the Thai government and UN, 15 species of eucalyptus were planted at the stations in four regions of Thailand.
  • During 1976-1977, the government promoted eucalyptus plantation as a substitute to natural forests. The Tung Kula Development Project in the northeastern Thailand was started as well as other reforestation programs.
  • During 1982-1986, the 5th National Economic and Social Development Plan promoted a policy of planting fast-growing trees. At the end of this plan (1985-1986), the promotion was declined as information about negative impacts of eucalyptus was distributed.
  • During the 6th National Economic and Social Plan (1987-1991), eucalyptus was not mentioned. Instead, other substitute plants such as L. leucocephala, Acacia mangium, Acacia auricuralormis, Pinus SP, mahogany, etc. were introduced.
  • In 1986, although the 6th National Economic and Social Development Plan did not promote eucalyptus, the government had a four-party cooperation project whereby eucalyptus was promoted.
  • In 1985, the National Forestry Plan stated that the forest area had to be increased to 40 % of the total area. This area would consist of 25 % of forests for economic purpose, 15 % of conservation forests. The Royal Forestry Department would be responsible in planting trees and leasing degraded forests to the private sector.
  • In 1986, the Office of Private Sector Reforestation Promotion was established in the Royal Forestry Department. The private sector, on the other hand, established the Association of Private Campaign for Reforestation of Thailand. This association had contacts with the Japanese pulp association. There was also the establishment of a Thai-Japanese company for reforestation plantation and forestry industry which promoted eucalyptus plantation in nine provinces in Thailand.
  • In 1988, the government declared Act cancelling logging concessions as a result of massive floods in southern Thailand. In addition, they urged the private sector to join more in reforestation projects.
  • In 1990, a conflict between government and villagers was intensified so the Chatchai government stopped allowing the private sector to lease land for eucalyptus plantation.
  • In 1990, the cabinet passed the Community Forestry Act which promoted the growing of rare plants (not eucalyptus).
  • In 1992, the government passed a decree to dissolve the lending of land for eucalyptus plantations in the national parks but still allowed each farmer to rent 50 rai for planting rare plants.
  • During 1990-1992, the government had a program to allocate marginal land in degraded forests for poor farmers who were evicted from the area. It was mentioned in the plan that two thirds of the area would be leased to the private sector.
  • In 1993, investors forced the government to find degraded forests for them to plant eucalyptus with the claim that they did not have enough raw material for pulp.
  • In September 1993, the government abolished the declaration which allowed the private sector leasing land for plantations. But, in the same month, the cabinet passed a decree to revise the Plantation Act in order to support reforestation which included fast-growing trees.

At present, eucalyptus returns in full strength. There is a push for prime plan for forestry development with Finland’s Jaakko Poyry Company as a consultant. This plan emphasized on the importance of the eucalyptus and paper industry as a solution to forest "rehabilitation”. The draft of this plan estimated that, in order to meet the domestic industry’s need, Thailand should have 20 million rai of eucalyptus plantation. It also estimated that Thailand’s need of wood would increase from 18 million cubic meters to 55 million cubic meters by 2015.
At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture has a plan to promote fast-growing trees as well as economic trees in farmers’ land in the land reform area. They also proposed that the northeastern region as a source for raw material and location for the pulp and paper industry.

Government’s Claims for Promoting Eucalyptus Plantation

The government promotes eucalyptus plantation for the private sector and farmers for the following reasons:
  1. Declining agricultural production including rice, cassava, etc.;
    Therefore, a substitute plant is needed. 250,000 rai under the program to reduce cassava plantation is planned for eucalyptus with the support of EC.
  2. Rapid decrease of forest area;
    Therefore, reforestation is urgently required. Eucalyptus is selected in order to get green area as soon as possible.
  3. Eucalyptus could be used for pulp;
    A group of investors is trying to establish a number of mills for it, especially in Khon Khaen, Nakorn Ratchasima and Sisaket. The government also has various policies to support investors to set up pulp & paper mills.

Forms of Support
There are various forms of eucalyptus planting as follows :
  1. Plantations, for example the Forestry Industry Organization’s plantations;
    The government allows investors to rent plots in degraded forests of about 50,000-100,000 rai per plot for only 10 baht per rai for 30 years.
  2. Public places and community forests - with the support of the Royal Forestry Department through the sub-district council. In some areas, eucalyptus is planted in addition to local plants. In some areas, the local forest is cleared only for eucalyptus.
  3. On the farmers’ land;
    The farmers plant eucalyptus in a plot or at the rear of their farm. Seedlings are either bought or given by the authority.

In conclusion, it is clear that the prosperity of eucalyptus is a result of domestic and foreign push to find raw materials for the pulp industry. Both the government and private sector promote it by the following forms:
  1. propaganda on radio and bringing farmers to see demonstration plots.
  2. The government allows the investors to rent national parks for eucalyptus plantations.
  3. The government provides free seedlings.
  4. The Forestry Department gives 3,000 baht per rai to the farmers who do the planting.
  5. A low-interest loan of 5% without interest for five years is provided to the farmers to plant fast-growing trees , under the Agricultural Restructuring and Produce Scheme.

Government’s Support of the Pulp Industry

Besides promoting the planting of eucalyptus through its various policies, the government also finds incentives for plantation by supporting the establishment of many pulp mills.
There are so far five pulp mills in Thailand. They are :
  • Bang Pa-in Pulp and Paper Factory, Ayutthaya province
  • Siam Pulp Factory in Kanchanaburi province
  • Suan Kitti Pulp Company in Chachoensao province
  • Phoenix Pulp and Paper Plant 1 in Khon Khaen province
  • Phoenix Pulp and Paper Plant 2 in Khon Khaen province

Also, the following four plants are on the way:
  • Tung Songkram Development , Sakon Nakhon province
  • Tri Thep Pulp Company Ltd. , Nakhon Ratchasima province
  • Nam Tan Wang Khanai Company, Nakhon Ratchasima province
  • Forestry Industry Organization Pulp Factory, Sisaket province

The government promotes and protects the pulp industry by the following means:
  • tax exemptions for imported machinery and production equipment
  • income tax exemptions for 3-8 years
  • increasing import tax from 1% to 10% to protect local goods, at the same time charge 20 % fee for importation
  • the government abolished the control of pulp exportation from 1992 onwards
  • in order to protect the pulp industry in Thailand, the government also established various taxes - sales tax of 1.5%, municipality tax of 10% sales tax, 0.5% of import price as Ministry of Commerce fee; further the exportation of Thai pulp is not taxed.

The pulp industry in Thailand is not an import-substitute industry but an export one. The short pulp produced in Thailand is more than the market demand. Thailand has to import longer pulp produced from pines.

Eucalyptus in Northeast Thailand

Eucalyptus first came to Northeast Thailand in 1979-1980 under various projects such as the Thai-Australia Thung Kula Ronghai Development Project, the Forest-Industrial Organization Re-forestation Project and Experimental Centers supervised by the Department of Forestry.

Examples of Eucalyptus Plantations under the support of the Thai Government in Northeast Thailand.
  • Thai-Australia Thung Kula Ronghai Development Project:
    This project was implemented from 1976-1989. Its aims were to modernize the areas. After implementation, the re-forestation project created conflict rather than development, especially in the upland areas.
    Reforestation under the Thung Kula Ronghai Development project promoted primarily eucalyptus. Its objectives were to reduce the spread of saline soil, alleviate flooding and to make commercial use of eucalyptus trees.
    The project promoted eucalyptus through the tambon coucil. The target areas for eucalyptus plantations were public land within a community. The project also promised that after 6 years of implementation the right over eucalyptus use would turned over to the tambon council. Examples of the project’s areas of implementation are:
    • Ban noi talad muang: The village’s public land covers 480 rai. It is located in tambon Kamphang, Amphur Kasetwisai, Roi-et Province. In 1984, the tambon council agreed with the Development of forestry to make use of their public land and convert it to eucalytus plantations.
    • Dong Keng Forest: This public forest covers 2,857 rai. It is located in Tambon Kudnarmsai and Tambon San Suk, Amphur Panomprai, Roi-et Province. In 1990 the Thung Kula Ronghai Development project requested an agreement from the Tambon council to implement a re-forestration project. In late 1990, the project built a nursery house for eucalyptus plantation of 300 rai. It expanded to 1,700 rai in 1992 and added another 700 rai in 1993.

  • Re-forestation Project: The Forest Industrial organization was responsible for this project to grow forest in degraded areas. They selected eucalyptus as a major tree. Examples of the areas under this project are:
    • Somdej Eucalyptus plantation: The forest Industrial organization grows cucalyptus in the areas where it has been logged by Kalasin Logging company. In 1994, it covered 12,446 rai in Dong Kwang Forest Reserved which covers Amphur Somdej, namon and muang.
    • Songkhla Eucalyptus Plantation: This project started in 1979 and aimed to plant eucalyptus in 5,000 rai in two forest reserves, namely Huey Samran forest reserve and Huey Senn forest reserve. At present, they are planting 1,281 rai of eucalyptus and 240 rai of Acacia auriculacformis and 6 rai of Melia azederach. The total area is 1,527 rai.

Impact : Forest or drought

After implementing the project on eucalyptus plantations, the following results appeared :
At Ban Noi Talad Muang, public land of 480 rai is no longer used by 1000 families as it has been used before. In the past, farmers usually raised animals, grew casava, picked local vegetables such as mushrooms, wild vegetables and herbs. In addition, there were wild animal living there.
In 1984, the project started to plow the land, destroying all the trees. Natural forest has turned to eucalyptus plantation. In some areas where there were trees leffover, they started to die because of drought. One thousand families have lost their food sources and animal raising area. They then sold their animals. The wells nearby are shallow and drying.
Dong Keng forest is connected to the Chi River, which is the major river in the Northeast. Nine communities used to make use from this forest either for animal raising, looking for food, or planting. When they started planting eucalyptus, natural trees were cut down. Farmers are not allowed to raise animal or go inside the area to look for food, which in fact is not available any more. The most delicious mushrooms formerly found in this forest have also been lost.
Mrs. Nosridaengkam, a villager who picked mushrooms for sale has lost income of 5,000 baht. Other villagers who earned income of 3,000 - 4,000 baht from charcoal making also lost their job. Many villagers have had to leave their villages to look for jobs else where.

Somdej Eucalyptus Plantation: This area was once forest where many wild animals lived, but after logging companies entered the area in the year between 1957-1967, the trees disappeared. Many villagers came to this area in late 1967 to look for farm areas. They lived there until the year 1974 when the forest Industrial organization entered the area. They persuaded farmers to became members and work as labourers in their eucalyptus plantation project. They promised that farmers who joined the project would receive 7 rai of land with a land certificate. They also promised to build up infrastructure for the community such as schools, roads, electricity, a health center, etc. When the project started, they plowed the land and planted eucalyptus. The villagers were allow to grow cassava and corn in between the rows of trees for the first two years. After that, farmers were not allowed to enter the area. The results started to appear. The fertile soil turnd out to be saline soil. The colour turned white. Rice production in the area nearby went down by 10 times. Five ground water sources dried up and left only one source. There are now water shortages in the dry season. The ground water level went down to 10-15 metre deep. And after 20 years, the villagers never recieved any land certificate.

Sang Khla Eucalyptus Plantation: After the logging concession was lifted, farmers moved to the area. In 1969, they organized a meeting with the villagers and promised that they would build a school and health center. The forest industrial organization would grow eucalyptus on farmers’s farms for 7 years and after that the land would return to the farmers.
After 7 years of implementation, the forest industrial organization had not build the school or health center. The eucalyptus plantation areas are now restricted areas for farmers. Many farmers have to look for other jobs. Some rent land from friends or relatives. Some left the area to look for work. For example, there are 34 families in 3 villages of tambon Pra Kaew whose lands were turned to eucalyptus plantation. 43 families in 4 villages of Tambon Ta Kong lost their farmland of about 10-35 rai per family. Some lost as many as 90 rai. Other losses such as natural food, herbs, and wild animals also happened in the area.

Farmers : Struggle for Survival

Over the past 10 years, the impact of eucalyptus plantations have been felt not only in the areas mentioned above, but also in many other areas in the northeast. Many villagers experienced severe problems such as drought, water shortages, degraded soil, loss of animals and trees which could not survive in eucalyptus plantations. Northeastern farmers then, started to fight for their rights as in the following series of events:
  • In 1985, more than 2,000 villagers from Ban Siew, Tambon Sicus, Amphur Uthumporn Pisai, Srisaket province entered eucalyptus plantation and destroyed the trees and burned the nursery house which belonged to the logging company in Non Larn Forest. This campany plan to cut down the forest and plant eucalyptus instead.
  • In the same year, villages from Tambon Koke Manuang, Tambon Nong Bua, Amphur Pa kham, Burirum province rallied to protest against a eucalyptus plantation project that was to be launched in their area.
  • - In February, villagers. from Narmkhum village, Tambon Nonsawan, Amphur Pathumrat, Roi-et Province and nearly villages, invaded the plantation area, uprooted the trees, asked the government to stop destroying natural trees.
  • In April, villagers from Tambon Karn Pia, Tambon Nang Bud came together to stop a eucalyplus plantation project in Dong Na She-khi Lan forest;
  • In May, villagers from Yang Kham village, Phonesai branch district, Roi-et province staged a rally and appealed to the government to stop cutting down natural trees in Dong Bang forest;
  • In June-July, a rally was organized to protest against a eucalyptus plantation in Tambon Phonesai, Tambon Thungkula, Amphur Suwannaphum, Roi-et Province, and Nong Wang village, Amphur Somdej, Kalasin province. They also proposed their alternative solution to allow farmer to be involved in their own natural resource management;
  • Although the farmers ralled against plantation projects many times, the government still did not respond to their demands. The northeastern farmers proposed two alternatives:
    1. In degraded forest under forest industrial organization control, the government should stop promoting eucalyptus, allow farmers to make use of the areas in a sustainable way, such as community forest, with rules and regulations set by the community themself.
    2. The government should return the land to the farmers and give land certificates to them. Farmers could do natural farming, agroforestry, etc.

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