We celebrated our 30th anniversary 2015! In honor of this milestone, we profiled 30 remarkable leaders who have partnered with AJWS to build a better world. These are but a few of the thousands who have raised their voices worldwide with our support, changing the lives of millions for the better.
Securing titles to ancestral lands
Prayong Doklamyai is a local hero in a community of “forest communities” in Thailand. These communities—villages located in the country’s dense forests that sustain themselves by foraging food from the forests—face grave struggles today in retaining their hold on the land and trees that are vital to their survival. Few of the indigenous inhabitants have legal ownership of the land their ancestors have called home, and as a result, they are powerless when the government, developers and loggers seek to fell the forests they depend on.
Prayong has dedicated his life to protecting his people’s natural home by advocating for land rights through Northern Development Foundation (NDF), an AJWS grantee that pushes for legislation in Thailand to protect forest dwellers.
In 2011, thanks to Prayong and NDF’s advocacy, the Thai government passed a regulation allowing forest communities to apply for community land use titles—documents that give the people collective rights to the forest and make it harder for others to seize the land without their consent. Since the law passed, at least 400 communities have registered for the titles.
“Land is the most important element for life, habitat and farming,” Prayong said. “It is essential to empower the poor to realize their power, stand up for themselves, act, speak out for their rights and live with dignity. Not many donors support this. AJWS is one of a kind. AJWS provides opportunities [for forest communities] to express to policymakers that they have been downtrodden and taken advantage of. AJWS helps the grassroots people to see that they are not alone and have a friend to walk together shoulder-by-shoulder.”