Houaphanh is a mysterious, beautiful and abundant area of Lao PDR, with dense mountainous forest covering much of the province. Like the rest of the country, however, forest cover has been steadily decreasing in recent decades. This includes Viengxay and Xam Tai districts, where the SNV REDD+ programme, supported by USAID LEAF, has been working with government partners and local communities to reduce pressure on the forest resources of the Nam Xam National Protected Area (NPA).
One method that SNV has been using is raising awareness of regulations governing use and management of forest resources within the protected area amongst communities located in and near the Nam Xam that are heavily reliant on its land and forest resources. Last year, two legal dissemination workshops were conducted in targeted villages in Viengxay and Xam Tai districts. These workshops outlined key regulations governing community use and management of forest resources within the Nam Xam area. The success of these initial workshops inspired the Nam Xam NPA Office to request additional legal dissemination workshops for other village clusters in 2015.
These workshops were organised from 23 to 27 February, 2015 for the four village clusters of Him, Meungpao, Nongkham and Phamxam, with a total of 83 men and women attending. Many of these villagers practice shifting cultivation on NPA land, and also harvest timber and non-timber forest products, in addition to wildlife. The villages were very motivated to participate in the workshops, as evidenced by one village elder who walked 11km to attend. One village head stated, “We need to learn how to better use our forest resources and follow the regulations, so our livelihoods improve and the entire community benefits.”
The workshops incorporated a series of presentations on topics including National Protected Area regulation, forestry laws, and laws governing terrestrial and aquatic animal use. However, it was the informal discussions on the importance of climate change that proved most useful, with participants recounting observed manifestations of phenomena in their own areas. There was a general feeling of deep concern amongst participants about the impacts of climate change and, in particular, on future food production.
The legal dissemination workshops formed part of an integrated programme of support SNV has been providing to district and provincial counterparts, headed by the Nam Xam NPA Office. In the months prior to the workshops, this included the completion of a consultative planning process and development of a mechanism for community-based management of the Nam Xam NPA. In the coming months, SNV will also support the distribution of Nam Xam NPA regulation handbooks to all targeted villages.
This intervention is part of the Lowering Emissions in Asia's Forests (LEAF) programme, which aims to strengthen the capacity of target countries to achieve meaningful and sustained reductions in GHG emissions from the forestry-land use sector while assisting them in benefiting from the emerging international REDD+ framework.