The Karen people live within dense forests filled with teak and other tropical plant species. There are hundreds of villages tucked away on the sides of the mountains, sometimes 90 kilometres from the nearest hospital or secondary school.

The climate is very hot and humid. The rainy season starts in May and goes through to October. November, December and January are warm during the day but very cold at night. February and March are hot and humid.

Heavy rains and severe droughts bring difficulties. Villages are often cut off for weeks in the rainy season.

Common issues:

  • Rice fields are destroyed
  • Roads are destroyed
  • Irrigation systems are destroyed
  • Houses are destroyed
  • Severe droughts mean poor food crops

The Karen are traditionally subsistence farmers who have been dependent on rice and vegetables grown in small plots around their villages or in forested areas. New controls on land use however, have restricted traditional forms of agriculture, and the Thai Government has converted much agricultural land into pine and teak plantations.

Recently, the Karen grow less rice and instead produce and sell crops such as soya, garlic and the longan fruit. The new cash crops mean that Karen farmers are now vulnerable to marketing fluctuations in prices.