Droughts impact lives and livelihoods around the world, particularly in those regions with limited resilience to extreme events. In South-East Asia (SEA), pressures from climate and land use change, increasing populations and development impact water resources, even in Thailand which is considered to be one of the wealthier countries in the region.
A number of recent drought events in Thailand have impacted food supplies, energy production and the wider economy, underlining the vulnerability of the country. The agricultural sector is particularly affected by water shortages and a better understanding of drought in Thailand would underpin mitigation actions that improve resilience and livelihoods.
Drought monitoring can improve preparedness and management, and whilst drought information provided through existing operational services provides a useful tool for water managers, there is limited understanding of how these indices relate to impacts. This appreciation of the links between drought indicators and impacts is limited by the availability of both consistent hydrometeorological datasets and impacts data collected from agricultural stakeholders. An improved understanding of this indicator-impact link would enhance the management and communication of drought, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability.
The STAR project will address these research needs through the following objectives:
- Engage stakeholders in informing and co-designing drought monitoring practices, ensuring collaboration during and post project;
- Develop new drought monitoring and characterisation indicators for Thailand based on stakeholders' needs;
- Improve understanding of drought impacts on agriculture and assess adaptive capacity in a case study catchment;
- Increase drought resilience and capacity through better communication of drought risks and associated impacts.
STAR aims to enhance resilience to drought for all of Thailand although some activities will take place within a catchmentbased context. The Ping catchment is a major tributary of the strategically important Chao Phraya river, identified for its importance within the agricultural sector and vulnerability to drought. Approaches are likely to be scalable within Thailand and the SEA region more generally.
The STAR project will deliver new information and insights about the relationships between drought severity, timing and duration, and its impacts on Thai agriculture, as well as guidance on how drought risk can be better communicated from policy planners to farmers, increasing the resilience of agriculture to this natural hazard. Although the scope of the project is national, more detailed work will be undertaken in the Ping catchment. At the local level, the immediate beneficiaries will be growers and the policy planners working in the area as they will have access to more sophisticated drought indicators and information about the associated impacts for agriculture in the catchment.
The PingSTAR Network that will be established as part of this project will bring together stakeholders related to agricultural drought management from the local to the national level, facilitating the flow of information and support between them. At the national level, this project will increase Thailand's capacity regarding drought monitoring and early warning, by providing a wide range of drought indicators for the country and guidance on how to replicate the drought indicator-impacts approach (that will be tested in the Ping catchment) in other areas of the country. Different ministerial bodies and institutions related to agricultural water management (e.g., Royal Irrigation Department) will be directly involved in the project and the Network, and will benefit from its outputs.
All these beneficiaries will co-design the project, e.g. through the identification of gaps in the current drought monitoring system, the PingSTAR network providing constant feedback to the project, and supporting the surveys and focus groups organised in the area. This has the potential for long-term transformational impact to arise from the project with more appropriate drought monitoring and communication as an intended legacy of STAR. A wide range of dissemination activities has been designed as part of the project to ensure maximum impact and uptake, from focus groups and the PingSTAR Network, to workshops and a final showcase event at the national level.
The overall ambition of this project is to improve Thai agricultural preparedness and resilience to droughts by providing policy planners with the necessary information and guidance for promoting adaptive behaviour. For individuals, better drought monitoring and proactive drought management means more stable crop production and hence food supply, less variable farm income and less distress to growers impacted by this natural hazard. For the country, it means increased food security, lower impacts on the economy and enhancement of the development of the nation.
- Natural Environment Research Council
- Thailand Research Fund