Planting the seed of environmental awareness

Jun 15, 2017

Boui proudly holds up his picture, prepared for the drawing competition. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Jonas Aechtner

Savannakhet Province - “Today I will plant my first tree.” It’s early morning, but Boui is already excited, fidgeting in his chair. He proudly holds up a drawing, showing his friends and family planting seedlings. “I drew this picture over the school holiday and hope I can win one of the prizes in the drawing competition.”

Boui is one of many students gathered today in Xonnabouly District, to participate in a tree-planting activity, covering an area of two hectares, together with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and members of the Xonnabouly community. This activity is designed to contribute to Lao PDR’s aim to expand the country’s forest to cover 70 percent of its total area, at the same time increasing environmental awareness amongst the young generation. School children were also invited to present their drawings, prepared in advance on the topic of their relationship with the environment they live in, in line with this year’s theme of “Connecting People to Nature”.

The planting activity was organised by a project on sustainable forest and land management, implemented by the Department of Forest Resources Management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility, which aims to enhance the sustainable management of Lao PDR’s natural resources through improved governance and community participation. The inclusion of local community members and their knowledge plays a key role in the project which aims to drive conservation through livelihood programmes and alternative income from non-extractive activities.

In its five target districts in Savannakhet, this project is planning to reforest a total area of 1,110 hectares over the next six years. Lao PDR’s forest cover is declining with an annual estimated rate of 1.4%, but the country has made a strong commitment to halt and reverse the loss of forest with the help of sub-targets of Sustainable Development Goal 15. This internationally adopted goal, which aims to sustainably manage forests, amongst other objectives, supports Lao PDR’s national plans on its path towards sustainable development.

The Government has selected the dry dipterocarp forest ecosystems in Savannakhet Province as a demonstration site for testing the implementation of new national policies for sustainable land management. Dipterocarps are a tree species prevalent in South East Asia, valuable for their resin and timber. 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. 

Boui’s dreams came true. He planted many seedlings in an area where over the next months the community, with support from the Sustainable Forest and Land Management project, will plant trees on five more hectares. His picture also won the third prize for his age group: a bag full of school supplies. “Now I can draw some more pictures. I think the next one will be about how I planted my first tree.”