Rockefeller Foundation to Pilot Remote Sensing Technology To Protect Forests in Thailand

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under the Royal Patronage (MFLF) with a US$200,000 grant to develop remote sensing technology that monitors forest encroachment and advance a model that can be applied and scaled to other regions.

Initially deploying this technology to monitor coffee plantations in the Doi Tung Development Project (DTDP) area, a mountainous region in the Thai highlands of Chiang Rai, the MFLF will manage shade-grown coffee farms, monitor the expansion of economic forests to ensure the mitigation of forest encroachment, and improve the integrity of its carbon credit project, which is the largest nature-based carbon credit project in Thailand.

“Our support for MFLF’s remote sensing technology exemplifies our commitment to empowering communities at the forefront of climate action. By leveraging emerging technologies, this initiative aims to benefit such communities, strengthen local leadership, catalyze a vibrant carbon market, and set a new standard for high-integrity carbon credits,” said Deepali Khanna, Vice President, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation.

Through this grant, MFLF will develop of a field-tested application in the DTDP area, which includes 29 villages and its 12,682 residents, that will also serve as a platform for others to use to enhance accuracy in differentiating economic and conservation forests.

Because coffee trees are commonly grown under shade, it can be difficult to prevent the expansion of coffee farms into protected forests, thereby destroying the biodiversity. In the long run, this technology could protect conservation forests, leading to the preservation of natural habitats, and prevent the valuable biodiversity loss in the DTDP area.

In addition, with the ability to separate between economic and conservation forests, the DTDP can ensure the integrity of its carbon credit program.

The MFLF team will also engage coffee-growing communities to support the deployment of remote sensing techniques and the development of community-led solutions for forest conservation.

Ultimately, this will reduce project development costs, enhance forest conservation efforts, and generate sustainable revenue for communities. MFLF plans to share this technology to other communities outside DTDP area to scale forest conservation initiatives nationwide.

The Mae Fah Luang Foundation has over 50 years of experience in area-based sustainable development, including reforestation and forest conservation.

MFLF’s latest project, Community Forest for Carbon Credit, helped communities sell their carbon credit from forest protection activities in exchange for funding support from private sectors. The project distributed over 60% of private sectors payment directly to the community.

Over the past four years, MFLF has registered approximately 50,000 hectares of community forest with Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO), the country carbon credit registry system, making them the largest nature-based carbon credit project in the country.