Provincial officials and community leaders met with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Laos (WWF-Laos) in Phiang district, Xayaboury Province on Feb 7 to review the outcome of the survey and mapping of household land use and holdings, income, and other socio-economic and agricultural parameters.
The meeting was chaired by Mr. Somboun Koumbasith, Deputy Governor of Phiang district, and Mr. Khamkeung Phanlack, Deputy Director of the Xayaboury Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, and facilitated by the WWF-Laos forest and land use planning consultant, Mr. Chris Flint.
The comprehensive presentations to the meeting were based on the work undertaken by the Phiang District Agriculture and Forestry Office, the Natural Resources and Environment Office, and the Nam Poui National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA) staff, who spent more than a month working closely with village leaders and 790 families in Ban Navaen.
Nam Poui NBCA, Xayaboury Province, is home to some of the most endangered wildlife species in Laos, including wild elephants and dholes.
The 15,000-hectare area of Navaen village is located inside the northern part of Nam Poui NBCA, and most of the families rely on agriculture for their livelihood, including upland cropping of job’s tears and rice, paddy rice farming and animal raising. While Nam Poui NBCA was created, along with another 17 NBCAs, in 1993, Ban Navaen was declared a development village in 1991. Thus, the original population of 90 Lao Loum families has steadily increased to the current 790 families, from Lao Loum, Khmu and Hmong ethnic groups, living in three large sub-villages.
This increase in population has put unsustainable pressure on land and forest resources, leading to dramatic degradation of production land (and increased poverty), uncontrolled grass and forest fires, forest degradation, and land expansion outside the agreed village boundaries into the NBCA. In addition, land governance has become a critical issue due to informal buying and selling of land in this NBCA enclave, with impacts such as dispersed family land holdings constraining land management and increasing gaps between the few larger land holders and the many families with insufficient land.
WWF-Laos has supported conservation work within Nam Poui NBCA for the past 10 years, particularly patrolling and law enforcement, as well as human-elephant conflict prevention and biodiversity monitoring. However, out of concern for the village land and livelihood issues, and their impact on the natural resources of the NBCA, WWF-Laos decided to also fund this detailed forest and land use planning exercise. The overall objective of forest and land use planning is to stabilize and enhance land use in and around the NBCA, with a vision of well-managed and fertile lands farmed by healthy villagers who are proud of the surrounding natural forest, which provides not only clean water and plenty of non-timber forest products but also good habitat for wildlife, which can ultimately become a tourist attraction.
The land use planning teams collected data and made precise maps of each villager’s land holdings in order to create a land inventory. They also found a range of land documents had been provided to villagers over the years, although these documents often do not reflect real land use and tenure. A key recommendation from this work was for relevant district agencies to coordinate to ensure that (i) the land tax registry and (ii) the family household registries are consistent with (iii) the detailed land inventories developed by this current work.
Finally, it was agreed by the meeting that while some priority actions require government agency co-ordination and thus minimal funding, the larger task of restoring land fertility and forest productivity and improving land and forest governance will require considerable time and financial support.
The achievements of this initiative and the results that came out of the meeting were made possible by the excellent collaboration by all agencies involved on the ground, the support of GIZ in the early stages, as well as initial mapping support by the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and The Agro-Biodiversity Initiative (TABI).
Source: Lao News Agency