Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Ecosystem conservation through integrated landscape management in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (ECILL)
Lead implementer: Wildlife Conservation Society
Partners: Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Lao PDR Department of Forestry (DoF)
The Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot is one of the planet’s most vulnerable hotspots due to extensive deforestation, driven primarily by large-scale agriculture and infrastructure development fragmenting highly biodiverse landscapes. Lao People’s Democratic Republic and its neighbours rely on agribusiness, hydropower, mining and other large-scale industry for their economic development, putting the region’s forests and protected areas at risk of deforestation and degradation. A new approach is needed to sustainably manage the region’s natural resources and balance economic development with conservation.
To protect Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s forests and biodiversity while assisting the rural poor to sustainably manage their resources through an integrated landscape approach and green growth model.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic is part of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, containing 14 of the world’s 200 most important bio-regions as well as 439 terrestrial Key Biodiversity Areas covering 800,000 km2 of habitat. The country has rich and unique agrobiodiversity, with over 100 plant species cropped and 2,000 species collected by rural communities to support livelihoods. Around 54% of Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s economic output is derived from natural resources, including 33% from watersheds that support hydropower generation. The country is investing heavily in agribusiness and extractive industries, which are expected to grow 25% by 2030. With around 80% of its population depending on agriculture for livelihoods, Lao People’s Democratic Republic is highly exposed to the effects of climate change. It is already facing increasingly frequent natural disasters such as flooding and drought, which cost approximately 3% of its Gross Domestic Product in annual damage.
The project will utilize an integrated landscape approach and green growth model to improve regulatory frameworks, maintain Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s forests and biodiversity through the stewardship of local communities, and assist rural communities to sustainably manage their natural resources. The project will establish co-management models through which communities and local government can collectively elevate their voices and benefits, while also engaging the private sector in sustainable business practices. The project will also seek to inform national policies on land use, forest management and economic development, as well as co-management models that engage communities, local government and the private sector. The project will promote climate-smart products and services that leverage the country’s rich agrobiodiversity to support local livelihoods. The project covers three biodiversity-rich areas in Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, Bolikhamxay Protected Area Landscape and the Xe Champhone Ramsar Wetland Complex in Savannakhet.
In partnership with local communities, the project will develop and implement participatory land-use and zoning plans that link to conservation agreements and action plans. It will assist local communities to understand their rights to land and forest resources within national legal frameworks. The project will help develop value chains for climate-smart agricultural products, forest products and ecotourism, to boost local incomes while conserving biodiversity. It will also implement models that directly engage private sector actors to improve compliance with socioeconomic best practices and develop incentive mechanisms, like forest conservation offsets and payments for ecosystem services. Lastly, the project will inform national environmental policy by helping to devise a roadmap towards a sustainable finance strategy for Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s protected areas, as well as providing technical assistance to government agencies to support the development of forest and wetland legislation and build land management capacity.
Dr Santi Saypanya, Country Director, WCS Lao People’s Democratic Republic Program, email@example.com