Education and professional training
Moken are an ethnic minority, semi-nomadic gypsies of the sea, who settled on small islands in the Andaman Sea, such as Koh Lao. This island was totally devastated in the 2004 tsunami. Afterwards, they were found suffering from malnutrition and infested with vermin, starving to death. Like their ancestors, they have continued to practice freedive fishing, spear in hand. Now they also use nets. Most of these exceptional swimmers live under the absolute poverty line.
Today, all the children are in school and are doing well on Koh Lao. The first educated generation is reaching the end of the school program and most of them are not registered citizens (no identity card). They therefore do not have access to further training or jobs or medical care. When they do find work, it is mainly in bars where the young women are exploited and mistreated and the young men are hired to fish using dynamite for rather unscrupulous characters!
The J&O Foundation is taking action by providing these young people with vocational training in waste management. Waste disposal is a difficult problem in the region and we contribute to finding solutions, motivated by the fact that it is of direct interest to our mission. While cleaning up the area, we provide vocational training, jobs, integration and education, all in a sustainable development approach.
As noted by Thailand’s Pollution Control Department (PCD), plastic waste in the country continues to increase at the annual rate of 12 per cent, or around 2 million tons. Only 0.5 million tons of this waste can be reused, while the remaining 1.5 million tons, 80 per cent of which are single-use plastic bags, accumulate in (un)official dumping sites or are burned.
Our goal :
In keeping with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) giving fair consideration to the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development, the goals of our green social enterprise are the following:
- Recycle / Upcycle plastic waste on Andaman Sea & rivers/canals that flow to the sea: this work will be conducted and partly managed by assigning the local Moken population as responsible rangers while they are fishing. The Moken may embody the role as global ambassadors helping their culture to be safeguarded. In addition we can benefit from their thousand-year-old marine expertise to win the fight over plastic pollution.
- Reuse/Recycle plastic waste in the city of Ranong to reduce plastic leakage into the Sea.
- Promote waste separation and the 3R concept (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle) through education thanks to our educational programs in primary schools and Moken villages (waste bank program).
To achieve our goal we count on our strong network of key stakeholders. Tackling marine debris and plastics is a wonderful opportunity for innovation, in particular creative interesting economically viable technologies to recycle low-value plastics. We are promoting the concept of circular economy by turning plastic waste into clothes, accessories and useful products.
Our actions :
- Currently we are building a Moken network on islands around the Andaman Sea by partnering with other local NGOs and charities.
- In the past months we have been setting up meetings on Koh (island in Thai) Lao, Koh Chang, Koh Payam explaining to the Moken that plastic is valuable and that they can get an income by collecting it.
- A network of various stakeholders has been created: Royal Bureau, Ecoalf Recycled Fabrics S.L., Wongpanit Co Ltd, HDF Mercy Center and the governmental school of Kao Niwet.
- Dr Michel Pardos is participating in the Seaweb Seafood Summit (10th-14th June 2019, Bangkok), panel on how to address marine litter.
- To reinforce our presence, we are developing a collaborative international network with Plastic Odyssey, The Sea Cleaners, Race for Water and PlastiCircular initiatives.
Our key challenges
- Find new markets/innovative solutions for ocean waste/plastic. Recyclers in Thailand don't buy such type of waste, it is worthless for them.
- It will take time for the Moken to understand the advantages of being part of our project (increased visibility and possibility to get an ID card, increase their income).
- Keep the momentum going & making all partners responsible.
- The limits and possibilities of volunteering.
- To find qualified people (interviews in progress) and have the possibility to hire them.
Our project can demonstrate significant plastic leakage reduction by:
- Promoting plastic recycling/upcycling and valorization by setting up the first green social enterprise.
- Inspiring people to take action : Moken fishermen sensitization and local communities implication.
- Delivering hands on activities and income opportunities : collect plastic while fishing, beach clean ups, collect plastic on mainland.
- Delivering education that inspires participation for solving plastic pollution.
- Continually adapt, innovate and grow as an organization.
How does our initiative contribute to reducing plastic pollution and to a healthier environment in general ?
Regarding education, our approach is to provide students with a compelling reason to act before encouraging the development of original ideas to solve the global plastic pollution problem in their local community. Students are lead to develop solutions that will:
- Implement source reduction initiatives to prevent litter in their school and community.
- Reduce the use of Single-Use plastics (plastic bags, straws, cups,...).
- Reduce waste sent to landfill from their school through a tailored and specific action plan.
- Track and share their impact to educate and inspire the broader community.
How does our initiative contribute to a circular economy?
The circular economy represents an alternative, more sustainable model to the traditional linear economy. In Ranong plastic waste are dumped into landfills or ends up in the environment due to poor waste management. On islands, most of the time plastics are burned in an open field, being a major source of air pollution.
Our project was initiated to provide the Moken people job opportunities and help solve the plastic waste problem in the Andaman Sea. By collecting plastic waste for upcycling into new fashion items such as clothes, bags, and other fashion accessories:
- emphasize on the efficient use of resources.
- transform plastic waste into more valuable raw materials to make new products.
- add economic value while helping solve environmental issues.
- initiate debate on this topic.
The plastic waste found on coastlines and under the sea is separated into different types, such as polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), before undergoing a transformation process.
PET plastics, such as bottles, are broken down into flake-size or smaller plastic pieces and then spun into fiber to be made into textiles used in a variety of fashion items.
PE plastics, such as plastic bags, are melted into reformed polymers that will be enhanced by a wide range of additives to produce other value-added products.
Shifting the system to a circular economy involves everyone and everything: businesses, governments, and individuals. Our project includes stakeholders from these sectors.
We are establishing the first waste recycling bank in Ranong at Kao Niwet Municipal School. Our educational approach in schools will focus on circular economy by promoting recycling at the household/community level. By doing this we are contributing to a cleaner environment and raise public awareness on the value of waste materials which can become a source of income and bring positive change to local communities. Based on our experience, 70-80% of recyclable materials that students bring to school are plastics
How does our initiative include stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society? How does our initiative contribute to building partnerships with others?
Our initial business concept was to purchase recyclables materials, process and re-sell them at a profit to the benefit of the Moken. This business plan proved to be too difficult as it was complicated to break into a well-established market with stiff competition and though monopolies. Therefore we decided to change our business concept and concentrate on unexplored market niches, where we could leverage the benefit of our social enterprise. For this it was necessary to build a community network and include key stakeholders. Our network has been set up in three main pillars:
- Islands and Oceans: "Moken Guardians of the Sea" program.
- Mainland recycling: Government offices, temples and schools network.
- School community network: education and waste bank program.
Our partners are:
- Ecoalf Recycled Fabrics,S.L.: Spanish sustainable fashion brand being part of the program UPCYCLING THE OCEANS THAILAND including PTT Global Chemical Public Company Ltd (petrochemical group), Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (global manufacturer of yarns) and Tourism Authority Thailand (TAT, Ministry of Tourism and Sports).
- WONGPANIT Co Ltd, thai leader in recycling since 1974.
2. Civil Society
HDF Bangkok, https://www.mercycentre.org/
Kaoniwet school - Ministry of Education in Ranong
By directly linking environmental issues such as plastic leakage into the marine environment, human rights and social needs, we can mobilize wider concern, greater support and more action to achieve our goals.
How is our initiative able to demonstrate potential to scale or replicate, or feed into local and/or national action plans ?
We aim to develop solutions to socially marginalized individuals in Thailand, mainly young Moken (sea gypsies) of both genders living on islands in the Andaman Sea. Our first goal is to build a network of Moken fishermen and increase the visibility of our "Moken Guardians of the Sea" program. On Koh Phayam we are currently starting our trial run with 150 Moken. Next year we are planning to include both Koh Chang and Koh Lao islands (also 150 Moken per island). The potential is to reach most of the 2'000 to 3'000 Moken living a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle heavily based on the sea. We are currently looking for an ambassador (a Moken family) navigating from island to island in their traditional boat (a kabang) to promote our project and motivate Moken to be part of it.
The financial model of our green social business emphasize long-term financial autonomy. By promoting entrepreneurship in the plastic recycling business, training among Moken fishermen/low-income people and education, our model could be easily replicated elsewhere in Thailand and help people living in poverty build better future.
Our goal is also to explore the possibility of including fishing ports all over Thailand and collaborate with the fishing industry to remove plastic/marine debris while fishermen operate out at sea.
Ranong is not a popular destination in Thailand for tourists. We are in contact with the Krabi Hotel Association and people well introduced in the recycling business in Pukhet. Touristic destinations could be ideal targets to scale up our model in the future, including diving clubs and hotels for instance. We are also taking part in the first discussions with Princess Jaruvan Rangsit to set up a Green Koh Samui island.
On the education side, our project has a great potential to scale or replicate. We are establishing the first waste recycling bank in Ranong at Kao Niwet municipal school. We have identified 20 other schools potentially interested in setting up such as program in Ranong. Education of young students could be extended nationally with the collaboration of our stakeholders. Education will contribute to a cleaner environment, a circular economy and raise public awareness on the importance of recycling and the value of waste materials, which can become a source of income and bring positive change to local communities.
Specific actions :
Islands and Oceans: "Moken Guardians of the Sea" program.
The Phayam island and the surrounding mangrove, home of the Moken, is littered with waste, in particular plastics during the rainy season. Our goal is to encourage them to clean-up their island and, as fishermen, collect plastic waste from the ocean / rivers / canals / beaches and sell it to our enterprise. This extra income will improve their daily lives and their financial independence.
During our last meeting in March 2019 in Bangkok, the founder of Ecoalf Recycled Fabrics S.L mentioned us its need of 40t of “ocean” plastic before year end for their program “Upcycling the Oceans Thailand”. He also accepts PET/PE spill washing up on the shores and beaches. However, he won’t buy “mainland” recyclables. Our goal is to contribute to this objective and they love the idea to have Moken involved in their program.
In order to implement our initiative, we are currently running a trial run to answer the following questions:
What is the workforce available on Phayam? 10 to 15 boats, approximately 100 adults and 50 kids.
How much waste can be collected? A first estimate will be available this year after the rainy season (May to Nov).
How to store plastics on the islands? It was decided to build containers at the entrance of the village. In progress.
How to organize the training of the Moken? We have decided to invite to Koh Phayam two of the four Moken girls from Koh Lao that were trained at Wongpanit Co Ltd.
Jan & Oscar already invested 20'000 USD since 2016 , planning to invest 30'000 USD in 2019-2020.
Fondation Madeleine: 5'000 USD for the waste bank program.