Protecting forests and biodiversity
Title: Protection and sustainable use of forest ecosystems and biodiversity (ProFEB)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing Agency: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
Overall term: 2019 to 2021
Natural resources play a crucial role in environmental protection and economic development in Laos. Illegal logging, poaching and large-scale land concessions for dams, mining and plantations are resulting in significant loss of forest areas. This poses a major threat to the great diversity of flora and fauna in the area and especially accelerates climate change. The associated reduction in ecosystem services causes a number of social and ecological issues, which particularly affect the poorest of the population, whose existence often depends on intact forests.
Although the state has increasingly put emphasis on environmental protection, until now public authorities and non-state actors have only partly been able to work together to improve the basic conditions for the adaptation to climate change, good stewardship in the forestry sector and the sustainable management of forest resources.
Working together, authorities and non-state actors have improved conditions for the sustainable management of forest resources and biodiversity. State institutions have thereby gained access to additional know-how, while the local population has gained greater control over the natural resources and achieved more secure living conditions.
The project supports the Government of Laos in negotiating a partnership agreement with the EU on forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT). The agreement sets out the legal obligations and the measures to be taken by both parties to combat illegal logging and improve governance in the forestry sector. This participatory decision-making process involves government agencies, civil society organisations, the timber industry and local communities.
The project supports the UNESCO World Heritage nomination of the protected area Hin Nam No and the implementation of collaborative management as a model for other protected areas in Laos. Through collaborative management, the project brings together authorities and local communities (“guardian villages”), to ensure the protection and effective management of the area. To improve the livelihoods of the guardian villages’ residents and sustainably finance the management of this area, a framework for tourism development is being established with the private sector. The nomination of the area as a transboundary UNESCO natural World Heritage Site with Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Viet Nam works towards consolidating conservation of the Northern Annamite Rainforest Ecoregion.
To support forest and biodiversity protection through the FLEGT and UNESCO process, the project additionally focuses on increasing knowledge of and fostering more positive attitudes towards the environment and biodiversity among the local population and representatives of authorities. It links capacity development support in the field of environmental education at national level with informative and learning processes in the provinces, districts and villages.
As a joint initiative of the Lao Government and German Development Cooperation, the project focuses on strengthening cooperation between state and non-state actors to achieve better management of forest resources and biodiversity and builds on the results and experiences of previous Lao-German projects. It brings together stakeholders from national, provincial and local level, aligns their strategies and approaches, and thereby positively impacts the overall quality of natural resource management. By actively involving non-governmental organisations, this joint Lao-German initiative integrates an additional partner for the achievement of the project’s objectives as well as long-lasting results.
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement negotiations between the EU and the Lao Government are well advanced. Cooperation structures have been established between the ministries involved, which are used for a participatory steering of the processes. The active involvement of the private sector and civil society is facilitated by the Lao authorities. Great progress has been made with respect to the development of timber legality definitions.
The Lao protected area authorities are successfully piloting a collaborative management system for Hin Nam No National Protected Area. Information about the status of conservation in the area has been collected and disseminated on a regular basis since 2014. Based on the ongoing development of a framework for tourism development through public-private-community-partnerships, agreements between the management stakeholders and private investors are facilitated. Based on technical advice from the project, the government of Laos framed and initiated the UNESCO natural World Heritage nomination process in 2016.
Through environmental education and the introduction of environmental communication structures and processes with the cooperation partners, ProFEB has improved media coverage on environmental issues as well as the National Strategy on Environmental and Climate Change Education and Awareness (NSECEA). In a cooperation arrangement, which is unprecedented for the country, local civil society and government agencies are jointly implementing the environmental education measures.