Southeast Asia Hub: Challenge 2

Maintaining multifunctional landscapes in Laos by materializing the multiple benefits for nature and people

Largely because of its rough terrain, low population density and previous political and economic isolation, Laos still holds considerable shares of so-called multifunctional landscapes. Such landscapes, consisting of smallholder agriculture, of pristine old-growth, secondary and riverine forests, and aquatic habitats, have a large degree of bio- and agro-biodiversity, and provide many and varied benefits to local as well as distant actors. These areas also represent a key ecological infrastructure in addition to the formally protected areas in Laos. The economic development blueprint in Laos over the past 15 years has been based on the development paradigm of “turning land into capital”. This influences national policies, leading to the homogenization of the landscape, with large-scale commercial crop plantations becoming increasingly the dominant form of land use. As a result, biodiversity loss and an impoverishment of the multifunctional services of the landscape undermine local nature-based livelihoods and local resilience. Moreover, they affect the provision of ecosystem services – including water purification, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation or provision of nutritious food stuffs – also for more distant actors.

Southeast Asia Challenge 2

Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province. © Albrecht Ehrensperger, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern

Our Goal

To maintain diverse and multi-functional landscapes in order to maximize co-benefits between nature and people and secure resilience against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Co-design of solutions and stewardship

Given travel restrictions and the initial stages of setting up the Hub in Laos, there has been a focus on scientifically substantiating the value of maintaining multifunctional landscapes in terms of co-benefits and trade-offs of agriculture and economic development, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and livelihood security. One specific project has already been launched: the compiled knowledge is a crucial element to the forthcoming co-design and visioning process that will serve to identify and launch additional projects.

Projects underway

Rewarding Agro-biodiversity through value chains
The aim of this project is to develop and test innovative approaches to building inclusive and sustainable value chains for non-timber forest products (NTFP) with local, regional, and international partners. This serves as one of the entry points towards maintaining multifunctional landscapes in Laos by materializing multiple benefits for nature and people. In 2021, in partnership with the local Lao Pha Khao Lao initiative and CDE, an initial set of promising agrobiodiversity products has been identified and the relevant scientific knowledge compiled. A process has been launched to develop partnerships with private-sector actors (e.g in the food sector) towards establishing value chains that can provide co-benefits for nature and for local populations.