New approach to improving local livelihoods though Lao PDR’s beautiful natureOct 20, 2016
The Department of Forest Resources Management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has started an initiative in Lao PDR’s dry dipterocarp forests in Savannakhet province, enhancing conservation for a positive impact on local communities.
A new project funded by the Global Environment Facility, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme UNDP and the Department of Forest Resource Management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has been launched in Savannakhet Province. The dry dipterocarp forest ecosystems located in this area are recognised as being of national and global importance. The project that is expected to run until May 2022 will implement sustainable land and forest management in the forested landscape of Savannakhet Province in order to secure the critical wildlife habitats, conserve biodiversity and maintain multiple ecosystems services that benefit the people of Lao PDR.
Dipterocarps are a tree species prevalent in South East Asia, valuable for their resin and timber. However, these 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. So far, Savannakhet Province has managed to retain large areas of this forest type. This is important due to their global priority for biodiversity conservation, as these dry dipterocarp forests in the Lower Mekong contain an exceptionally wide variety of animals and plants and are representative of this ecosystem type. Moreover, achieving a combination of conservation with a positive impact on local livelihoods sends a signal for further conservation initiatives.
Dry dipterocarp forests are not only home to a variety of wildlife and several endangered species, they also regulate groundwater supplies by 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.
The importance of the forest resources to the local communities and of community engagement was noted by Mme. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative to Lao PDR during the project’s inception workshop which was held on October 20. ”Communities will have the opportunity to be fully engaged during the whole duration of the project to explore opportunities for sustainable agricultural practices, harvesting of non-timber forest products and the development of eco-tourism in order to improve their livelihoods,” Ms. Immonen said.
The Global Environment Facility is the main donor of this project with a contribution of over 10 Mio USD, supported by the commitment in parallel co-financing from the Asian Development Bank, the World Wildlife Fund Laos and the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative in the five target districts of Savannakhet.
With the aim of joining local and international strength, this project is fully aligned with the goals of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan and several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs are a globally agreed vision to put people and planet on a sustainable path by 2030. They form the bedrock of a new development agenda that can set the world on a course of action to end poverty, transform lives and protect the planet. The goals that are addressed by this initiative for conserving some of Lao PDR’s important ecosystems include the SDG 2 on food security; SDG 5 on empowerment of women and girls; SDG 13 on climate action; SDG 15 on conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems; and SDG 17 on effective partnerships. Specifically, this global partnership will play an essential role for retaining the beauty of this planet, without restricting communities that live in those vital ecosystems from development, but incorporating them, their knowledge and competencies in conservation efforts.Contact information
Dr. Margaret Jones Williams, UNDP Environment Unit Chief