The rural development for conservation project in Subtai was one of the first CBIRD projects in Thailand. It was initiated to find ways of conserving the natural resources of the national park, while promoting new or improved livelihoods for local villagers.
In this context, one of the most important steps in protecting biodiversity is to safeguard livelihoods and help farmers manage their debts. CBIRD helped to set up a group called the Environmental Protection Society (EPS) in the Sub Thai Village, so that the community could become self reliant through better use of financial resources. Residents of the village are eligible to apply to become members of EPS. EPS distributes loans to members at a rate of 12 percent for cash crops and 9 percent for activities that are ecologically beneficial such as tree planting. Members are grouped into households, women, youth and occupational groups. In return for loans, members agree they will: commit to stop cutting trees and poaching in the national park; co-ordinate and strengthen EPS as a means to helping each other; report any transgression of EPS rules and regulations; and help to prevent forest fires during the dry season.
The organization is involved in diverse programmes to conserve the environment around the Sub Thai village, including: planting mangrove forests in tsunami prone areas, creating carbon banks, reducing waste in rural areas and providing water and sanitation facilities.