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Story

Old wood gets a new lease on life in Thailand

In Lamphun province near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand a 20-year old wooden house is being demolished. The workers are dismantling the house piece by piece, rescuing all teak wood from the roof support poles to the flooring boards, window frames and doors. Montree Sriyab is overseeing the demolition.

It will take about six hours to fully dismantle the house. The wood will be transported to Sriyab’s warehouse where workers will take the nails out, cut out broken parts and organise all pieces in shelves. Nothing will get wasted. Even wood eaten by termites will be sold as firewood.

Sriyab paid 20,000 Thai Baht (approximately 577 Euros) to the house owner for the wood. The most profitable parts are the flooring boards because the wood is thick and the boards are long. Sriyab is one of many reclaimed timber traders operating in the provinces around Chiang Mai and elsewhere in Thailand. These traders buy mainly old houses that contain timber that is at least 10 years old, the previous use having come to the end of its lifecycle. Once reclaimed, this timber is considered to be legal under Thai law.

Nothing will get wasted

Nothing will get wasted

Workers dismantling a wooden house piece by piece, rescuing all teak wood from the roof support poles to the flooring boards, window frames and doors.

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility

Nothing will get wasted

Workers dismantling a wooden house piece by piece, rescuing all teak wood from the roof support poles to the flooring boards, window frames and doors.

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility

Improving the competitiveness of small businesses

Sriyab participated in a training organised by the European Forest Institute’s EU FLEGT Facility, helping Small and micro Economic Entities (SmEs) participate in legal supply chains in the Mekong region, improve their competitiveness and contribute to gender equality. 

“Through the training, I learned how to comply with health and safety regulations and arrange my workshop effectively. I improved my business accounting, which will help with traceability as our reclaimed timber business grows” he said, pointing to a fire extinguisher he recently installed in his workshop. His wife Piyarut Sriyab, who manages the business accounts and logbooks benefitted from the same training and improved the accuracy and efficiency of her work. 

A total of 11 trainings and three focus group discussions targeting household level SmEs engaged in the reclaimed timber supply chain were conducted as part of an EFI pilot in 2018 and 2019. More than 70 people working in 20 household businesses participated in the trainings and the discussions: about 40% of them were female participants. The pilot project is run with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 

In collaboration with the local administration, EFI established a partnership with Charinrat Lamphun Technology College to ensure the continuous delivery of training. Dr Charinrat Buddhapuanm, the founder of the college, explains that reclaimed timber workshop owners will be trained, and a six-month curriculum for apprentice carpenters will be developed. 

Through this work the college is now connected with SmEs and the Banthi municipality. The curriculum has already been approved by the Government and the certificate that apprentices will receive will be recognized as carpenter’s licence. 

The college will help to get more female trainees so that the trainings can empower them. It takes time because of the culture in the area. We have to slowly convince households to bring women to training.

Dr Charinrat Buddhapuanm
Founder of the Charinrat Lamphun Technology College

Reclaimed timber

Reclaimed timber

Reclaimed timber has become a legal source of timber in the Legality Definition (LD) of Thailand’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS).

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility

A growing market for old wood

Currently there is a booming domestic market for reclaimed timber because the timber was originally sourced from older and carefully harvested teak trees. Reclaimed teak is seen as better quality than the young teak from plantations because it is more solid and better able to withstand the humidity of the region. The reclaimed timber business is increasingly contributing to the local economy and has become an important source of livelihood for household businesses in the wood sector. 

The reclaimed timber supply chain started more than 10 years ago but it was overlooked and unrecognized. Now, reclaimed timber has become a legal source of timber in the Legality Definition (LD) of Thailand’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). The recognition in the LD is a fundamental achievement that will enable the development of supply chain traceability for reclaimed timber in the near future, and also guarantees its regular monitoring.  

These mechanisms will simplify the bureaucratic steps in the reclaimed timber trade, decrease corruption and increase the earning potential for SmEs. The recognition of reclaimed timber as legal source of timber is the result of year-long efforts to raise awareness among policy makers engaged in the formal Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process between the Government of Thailand and the EU about the importance of reclaimed timber and the regulatory obstacles faced by SmEs. It demonstrates how VPA processes can trigger and accommodate legal reforms in support of SmEs – if the situation of SmEs is sufficiently understood and brought to the attention of the negotiating parties. 

Reclaimed timber

Reclaimed timber has become a legal source of timber in the Legality Definition (LD) of Thailand’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS).

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility

Removing regulatory obstacles for reclaimed timber

Wichat Prathanrat, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Banthi Subdistrict Municipality was instrumental in securing the support of the local administration to EFI’s pilot and explained to key members of the VPA’s National AD-Hoc Working Group how the reclaimed timber business generates income for the people living in his municipality. He has been working in Banthi for more than 30 years and could see first-hand the potential and the challenges of working with reclaimed timber. 

“Reclaimed timber households are confident that through the pilot, regulatory obstacles are being addressed. Before they did not have much hope. The pilot developed relationships and networks between the actors in the value chain and increased the capacity of SmEs. Some are even capable of promoting their products at exhibitions in Chiang Mai,” said Prathanrat. 

“We have raised awareness about reclaimed timber among policy makers and initiated a process of regulating the supply chain that provides opportunities for the business of communities in the area” says Suttasinee Soakam, the female manager of a 365-member  cooperative of household-sized handicraft businesses in Lamphun province. “With over a third of the reclaimed timber supply chain involving women, addressing regulatory barriers and strengthening community networks has an impact on peoples’ lives.”   

Suttasinee Soakam, manager of a cooperative of household-sized handicraft businesses with over 350 members.

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility

Suttasinee Soakam, manager of a cooperative of household-sized handicraft businesses with over 350 members.

Source: Agus Djailani, EU FLEGT Facility