Forests of Southern Lao PDR of global importance

May 20, 2016

Photo: Flickr/Oscar

The Government of Lao PDR has just signed a new UNDP programme funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is set to conserve and manage forests in five districts of Savannakhet Province, over the next six years. 

Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Ecosystems of Southern Lao PDR is the resolute title of the project just approved to be launched this year, with a financial envelope of USD 10.8 million from the GEF as well as USD 1.2 million from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNDP will implement the project in partnership with the Department of Forest Resources Management in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Dipterocarps are a tree species prevalent in South East Asia, valuable for their resin and timber. Dry dipterocarp forests are under pressure as large areas have been converted into farmland to plant cash crops, and other activities such as logging, hunting and harvesting of non-timber forest products all contribute to the degradation of this environment. Savannakhet Province, however, has managed to retain large areas of this forest type. Dry dipterocarp forests in the Lower Mekong region are of global priority for biodiversity conservation, because they contain an exceptional wide variety of animals and plants and are representative of this ecosystem type. In Lao PDR this habitat is home to globally significant species such as the Eld’s Deer, which is threatened and currently numbers only 30-40 individuals in Laos.

These forests also regulate groundwater supplies through absorbing rainwater in tree roots and leaves, reduce greenhouse gases and store valuable carbon as well as stabilise slopes by binding soil into the ground. Additionally, the forests are important for local communities as they provide for a diversified diet with non-timber forest products such as fruits, mushrooms and insects.  

Recognising the global and national importance of these forests, the Government of Lao PDR has prioritised their conservation and sustainable management. The project will seek to ensure that partnerships are built to coordinate the management of protected areas, enhance community forestry and livelihoods, as well as promote the development of eco-tourism activities. Protected areas in Lao PDR are profitable assets due to their development potential and the value of their natural resources which can contribute to economic growth. Creating incentives to conserve and sustainably manage these forests is central to the project.

To support the Government in its endeavour to effectively manage the county’s unique natural resources, improve livelihoods and develop new opportunities for income generation, UNDP has partnered with other development entities to ensure synergies with on-going projects in Savannakhet Province. These include the Asian Development Bank, WWF-Laos and the UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative, all providing complimentary financing. The Government of Lao PDR will also contribute in-kind through national, provincial and district offices that will work directly within the project areas.

Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR emphasised the project’s contribution towards achieving Lao PDR’s national objectives: “The overall goal of the country, as outlined in the National Socio-Economic Development Plan, is to graduate from Least Developed Country status. The development of the protected area network can support this goal through enhanced livelihoods, income generation, environmental sustainability and disaster risk reduction. The project also helps to reach Lao PDR’s forest cover target of 70% by 2020”.

For more information, contact:

Dr Margaret Jones Williams, UNDP Environment Unit Chief, margaret.jones.williams@undp.org, +856 2055515876.