Southeast Asia Hub: Challenge 1

Local resource stewardship initiatives for nature and people in forest frontiers

Southern Laos with the Annamite Mountain range along the Lao-Vietnamese border offers an unparalleled mix of different landscapes, including unique forest ecosystems with rich biodiversity, seriously endangered wildlife, and wetlands under threat. Many of the country’s highest-value biodiversity areas have, over the past two decades, been designated as National Protected Areas (NPAs), which cover vast primary forest tracks. However, these areas are inhabited by local subsistence farming communities who rely heavily on hunting and gathering wild products. At the same time, the demand for land, timber, and non-timber forest products – plants and animals – has sharply increased over the past decades, primarily from neighboring countries. Increasing pressure on those resources, primarily from external actors, combined with limited capacities for law enforcement through Lao authorities, have resulted in a rapid decline in biodiversity. While the recently imposed protected area status brings about various restrictions for local subsistence farmers, it also offers opportunities for stewardship roles, if the necessary basic conditions can be realized.

Southeast Asia Challenge 1

Scientific data shows that the link between people and nature goes further than direct benefits. (© Land Concession Inventory field team, Lao Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; Forest clearance for banana plantation, Bolikhamxay province, 2009)

Our Goal

To identify innovative approaches and initiatives to counter exploitative resource extraction activities through strengthened local stewardship roles.

Co-design of solutions and stewardship

Given travel restrictions and the initial stages of setting up the Hub in Laos, the focus in 2021 was on enhancing the systemic understanding of the current situation, challenges and possible opportunities of the forest frontier regions in southern Laos. While no specific projects were yet launched to address this challenge in 2021, through the collaboration with CDE, a number of meetings and workshops have been conducted with key stakeholders in these landscapes, in preparation of the co-design and visioning process to identify and launch specific projects in 2022.