Photo: UNDP Lao PDR

Savannakhet, 19 December 2019 –  Mr. BALASUBRAMANIAM Murali, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. has had the privilege to join His Excellency, Mr. Thongpath VONGMANY, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Mr. Thonekeo PHOUTTHAKAIYA, Deputy Governor of Savannakhet Province, Mr. Sousath XAYYAKHOUMMANE, Director General of Department of Forestry, MAF, members of the Provincial Steering Committee of the SAFE Ecosystems Project and other Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, representatives of Savannakhet Province, as well as representatives from the private sector in the joyous occasion to hand-over 16 Community Halls to the communities of the Ong Mang Sanctuary.

In order to ensure local communities are fully engaged with Sustainable Forest Management activities within the Dry Dipterocarp Forest, the project made the decision to utilise Community Conservation Contracts in 2018. Using this methodology, 16 target villages (which consist mainly of Lao Loum, Bru/Katang ethnic groups) within the project area,  agreed to implement conservation actions such forest patrolling, reforestation, as well as compliance with forest and land use laws. In return for this, the SAFE Ecosystems Project agreed to certain benefits to be extended to these villages for implementing these activities.

One such benefit identified by the SAFE Ecosystems Project was to design and construct “social infrastructure” in the form of Community Halls, or “Salas” in each of the 16 villages. It is envisaged that these Community Halls will serve as:

(i) the offices of the Village Chief and Village Development Committees,

(ii) the meeting area for all members of the villages for all issues of local governance, including sustainable forest management, and

(iii) storage area for equipment purchased by the SAFE Ecosystems Project for the community.

It is the hope of the organisation that these Community Halls will serve as the center for governance to raise awareness amongst the community members about the conservation of not only that of the Dry Dipterocarp Forest, but also the critically endangered Eld’s Deer for many years to come.

The Dry Dipterocarp Forest is listed as a globally important ecosystem that is home to several endangered species and it is therefore important to prioritise its conservation. These forests are also a vital resource for communities who depend on forest products and ecosystem services therefore the next step should involve providing the communities with an opportunity to fully engage in the project. This will build a sense of ownership among local communities who will then become custodians of biodiversity and ecosystem reserves.

This year, the UNDP has worked with the MAF Department of Forestry, the Provincial Agriculture and Foresty Office to achieve many outcomes with the SAFE Ecosystems Project, including:

  • Making great progress towards elevating the status of the 130,000 hectare Ong Mang Sanctuary to National Protected Area / Park.
  • Supporting 16 communities with developing Village Forest Management Plans and obtaining land certificates
  • Planting around 250,000 seedlings.
  • Supporting community rangers to conduct patrols every month to protect the forest.
  • Implementing a range of livelihoods training activities, including fish farming, kitchen gardens, village vets, chicken raising demonstrations, training young women to become tailors and more to come in 2020.

At the same time,  the UNDP is in the final stages of procuring the ecotourism infrastructure, including a forest viewing tower, which will help support alternative livelihoods through tourism within Sanamxai village and others. The organisation looks forward to continued partnership with the Government of Lao PDR and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry through the Department of Forests and the Provincial Government of Savannakhet, while continuing to work together in the implementation of the SAFE Ecosystems Project and is delighted to see the extended partnerships with other relevant stakeholders and ministries.

The project is fully aligned with the goals of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan and the Forestry Strategy, which will contribute to the Government of Lao PDR’s goal of 70% forest coverage. Its key partners, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), also the main donor; the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Wildlife Fund-Laos (WWF) and the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI Project) has put in great commitment in parallel co-financing through their current initiatives in the five target districts in Savannakhet.

The mentioned project is integral to the UNDP Country Programme document and the UN Partnership Framework with Lao PDR, both of which are for the time period between 2017 – 2021, and is also aligned with global initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals including 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.

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Aksonethip Somvorachit
Communications Analyst, UNDP Lao PDR
Tel: 020 55021550, Email: aksonethip.somvorachit@undp.org

 

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