The people of Karen State have traditionally lived in areas rich in biodiversity, with fertile soil, lush forests, valuable mineral resources, and rivers that have been the lifeblood of Karen communities. However, more than 60 years of civil war have left Karen State one of the most impoverished regions in the nation, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced into refugee camps in Thailand or makeshift camps in Burma for internally displaced people (IDPs). In addition, a decades- long campaign by the military government to sell off the state’s abundant natural resources to the highest bidder has degraded and destroyed local environments, communities and ecologies, as well as further displacing residents and reducing the ability of locals to continue living their traditional subsistence lifestyle.
The Community Based Livelihoods Initiative (CBLI) and IDP Livelihood Restoration program represents the main pillar of KESAN’s community development work, allowing KESAN to build up a relationship of trust with villagers and to keep a close eye on the situation on the ground in Karen State. All livelihood initiatives link with the social-economic development of Karen communities and aim to contribute to the reduction of poverty in Karen State. This program aims to support small-scale local interventions to:
- strengthened local livelihood security,
- preservation and promotion of indigenous knowledge,
- conservation of local biodiversity,
- empowerment of women, and
enhanced local coping and adaption mechanisms against natural and human-caused disasters.
Activities supported and implemented under this program include: restoration of irrigation canals & abandoned rice terraces, rice banks, supporting traditional medicine production & clinics, strengthen community leadership and evaluation capacity, support for women’s fuel efficient stove-making, traditional weaving and sewing skills sharing, tea production, seed sharing.