Workshop for Spiritual Leaders on Community Campaigns to Reduce Demand for Wildlife Products

Workshop for Spiritual Leaders on 

Community Campaigns to Reduce Demand for Wildlife Products

June 29 -30, 2022

Wongsanit Ashram, Nakhon Nayok

By INEB Staff

Project participants, workshop facilitators from WildAid Thailand, DNP, INEB and USAID staff at the Wongsanit Ashram, June 2022.

This event was the fourth time that Buddhist spiritual leaders were brought together to learn about how monks and nuns can be key influencers in Thailand’s national effort to end the killing of animals and using wildlife products (skin, teeth, ivory, meat, etc.) in the belief that these products bring good luck and protection. The workshop was a collaboration between the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife, WildAid Thailand, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and Institute of Buddhist Management for Happiness and Peace (IBHAP). The two-day workshop was hosted at Wongsanit Ashram, Nakhon Nayok Province, Thailand. 

Building on outputs from the previous two in-person and one online “Workshop for Spiritual Leaders on Reducing the Demand for Wildlife Products,” conducted in partnership between INEB, USAID and WildAid Thailand in 2020-2021, this in person workshop aimed to strengthen the capacity and commitment of monks and nuns in key selected temples in Thailand to: 

  1. Develop messages and campaigns aligned with USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife’s campaign messages that are relevant in specific temples and similar settings.
  2. Equip participants with tools to build a campaign to reduce demand for wildlife in spiritual beliefs and respond to questions from people visiting temples and others with whom they come in contact.
  3.  Enable monks, nuns, and spiritual leaders to realize their wildlife campaign ideas and provide them with initial logistics and technical support.

The 16 participants included 3 Bhikkhunis, 4 nuns, 7 monks and 2 lay representatives from 7 temples in 7 Thai provinces. They will be key influencers in promoting the message to stop using wildlife products and the killing of wildlife associated with these products. Other participants were from each of the coordinating organizations and presenters including:  DNP, USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife, WildAid Thailand, and the INEB team. 

The training topics covered were: 

  • Update on activities held post-USAID Wildlife Asia 
  • Thailand update on tackling illegal trade of wildlife products
  • Developing communication materials
  • Social media capacity building for use as a communication and campaign tool 
  • Develop Ideas, project design, and proposal writing

This intensive workshop provided essential information and skill building to ensure that the participant’s projects strategically and successfully achieved their objectives. Their involvement in many small and large group processes provided the opportunity for the participants to deeply examine, critique and revise their project designs. 

A skill sharing session led by Ms. Nuthatai Chotechuang and Ms. Rabia Mushtaq from WildAid Thailand. The WildAid Thailand team addressed 5 main topics and expanded key points to developing an effective campaign.

Social media capacity building workshop facilitated by INEB and Venerable Napan Santibhaddo Thawornbanjob from the Institute of Buddhist Management for Happiness and Peace (IBHAP). During this workshop the participants produced and shared a piece of social media content related to the project proposal they submitted for the workshop. Ven. Napan shared his experience as a monk engaging with social media campaigns utilizing the Mercy is Power Facebook page to demonstrate the impact that influencers can have on the popularity of posts.  

INEB staff facilitated the 6 presentations from participants outlining the proposed activities that they plan to conduct within the next 60 days. Constructive feedback on the importance of refining the target audience and feasibility of the projects were provided by the participants, INEB and WildAid staff. 

The second day of the workshop began with a short presentation from WildAid highlighting the key focal points of WildAid media campaigns. These are the topics will help WildAid with their upcoming “Communication Aid,” that will be used by spiritual leaders and others in the future.:  

  1. Information about wild populations of elephants and tigers, and the harm inflicted from the wildlife market.
  2. Information on Thai laws related to trade in wildlife parts. 
  3. Statistics on the consumers’ motivation to use wildlife products based on USAID research.
  4. What the role of religious leaders is in reducing the demand for wildlife products. 
  5. Buddhist teachings for the public audience to change their superstitious beliefs in wildlife parts.

Every group determined that topic number (5) was the most relevant to their work with information about Thai law (2) and research statistics (3) agreed to be the least useful in conveying their messages. 

INEB staff Dr. Surin Onprom presented the Problem Tree exercise as a visual representation of the current issue that each project is designed to address. The roots of the tree represent the root cause of the problem (often hidden from immediate awareness) while the trunk of the tree represents the main issue. The tree’s branches indicate the consequences which stem from the main issue that affects the individual, the family and society as a whole. Dr. Surin summarized the feedback from the participants and reminded them to see the problems that they had uncovered as opportunities for designing impactful solutions. 

This final session was an opportunity for each group to present their refined campaigns and receive feedback from the other participants as well as INEB and WildAid staff. The participants formed 6 smaller groups focused specifically on each province they represented. Each was asked to make a short presentation describing the objectives and activities planned to reduce demand for wildlife products and end the killing of wild animals in their local community. As shown below, the projects focused on specific target groups to uniquely addressed community needs to achieve their objectives.

Summary of Group Presentations by Province
ProvinceTarget groupObjective
Ubon RatchathaniChildren and their family membersTo empower children as change-makers to transfer knowledge to parents and the broader community
Roi Et3-pronged approach: Community, schools, and local authorityTo produce clip videos, posters and brochures for canvassing the local area to raise awareness
Chiang MaiAsian university students studying at Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University, Chiang Mai – 50 monks, 100 lay personsTo provide quality information about wildlife laws and ethical concerns from a Buddhist perspective. 
Song KhlaGeneral publicDuring Vassa 2022 retreat, the group will aim to advocate for zero tolerance of wildlife products on Koh Yor
Nakhon SawanFormer users of wildlife products living in Nakhon Sawan that wish to change their behaviour The group will work with 15 people to provide information on new laws related to the Wildlife trade. 
Kanchanaburi18 year old youthGeneral publicEngage  youth in campaign activity and target national park audiences with offline activities 

The next steps involve participants revising their proposal, including indicators and challenges before implementing it within 60 days. The participants were energized and eager to implement their projects which will ultimately reach even wider audiences from the grassroots to government officials.

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