WHY to work on Natural Resources and Biodiversity in Laos ?

In the Lao Uplands, rural communities from ethnic minorities, historically rely on both farming productions and natural resources for their livelihood. Hunting and gathering Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) remain core activities, for both income generation and as a copping strategy in case of food scarcity or disruption of food and economic supply chains.  Consumption of forest products by the uplands communities in Lao PDR represents the equivalent of 40% of communities total revenue each year (World Bank; 2001). In Oudomxay province (La & Namor districts), NTFPs represented 23% of total village cash incomes in 2019. NTFPs are a secondary source of income for most of the households but are essential for the subsistence of the poorest ones, who are characterised by a poor access to land and a low level of available labour.

Due to demographic growth and changes in the economic context, land pressure is increasing in the country, including at community level, leading to depletion of natural resources and conflicts for the access to land and NTFP but stay however, the main drivers to move out from poverty for the Lao upland communities.

Lao PDR is included within the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. It is “ranked in the top 10 hotspots for irreplaceability and in the top five for threat, with only 5 percent of its natural habitat remaining and with more people than any other hotspot” (CEPF, 2020). Lao ecosystems contain an extraordinarily high fauna and flora species richness, including flagship and keystones species, such as Asian elephant, gibbons, bears, pangolins, saola etc… This biodiversity is facing many threats, which the main ones are the i/expansion of industrial agriculture, ii/poaching, trade and consumption of wildlife, iii/large infrastructures, iv/logging, v/weak governance, regulations and enforcement, vi/low public awareness and knowledge, etc. (CEPF, 2020).

What Do We Do?

Awareness raising on land issues: to help communities, farmers and women understand the land regulations and reduce the risks of land conflicts.

Creation & updates of village land use plans: to facilitate the wise management of the village territories, including the protection of key water catchment forest areas.

Community-based natural resource management plans: to facilitate the enforcement of wildlife and environmental laws, and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, including the NTFP (non-timber forest products).

Creation of fish protection zones & fish conservation zones: to protect aquatic life and secure one of the main sources of proteins for the communities (fishes).

Biodiversity surveys, to identify key village areas to be protected, to ensure wildlife protection and participate in reducing biodiversity depletion.

For Which Results?

Since 2015, across CCL projects:

53 community-based NRM schemes created & enforced

26 fish protection zones created & enforced