How can we Integrate multiple lands uses for improved livelihoods and landscape resilience?
The Study Tour will take us to southern Laos, near the border with Vietnam, along the Annamite Mountain Range. Heavily bombed by US planes during the Vietnam War for being host to the famous Ho Chi Minh “Trail”, the land is now littered with unexploded ordnance (UXOs) that hamper socio-economic development. Poverty levels are amongst the highest in Southeast Asia, with 85% of the population living off subsistence farming and natural forest resources extraction (construction, medicinal plants, handicraft, food, etc.), and literacy rates for women as low as 50% (Salavan Province 2005 census data). Ethnic diversity is amongst the highest in the country, with most of the population composed of Mon-Khmer subgroups such as the Tahoy, Katang, Kado, and Laven.
For the last 20 years though, with roads development and increased trade, pressures on the natural resources of this unique landscape have been very high. Illegal logging has decimated a lot of the natural forest and in some parts is still the main cause of deforestation. The central Lao Government has been trying for many years to curb it down, but local networks of patronage are very powerful and the sound of chainsaws can still often be heard in protected areas.
Utilizing the land to improve local livelihoods, supporting long-term sustainable economic development and promote landscape resilience is possible through carefully-designed agroforestry enterprises. Do the challenges reside in how to sustainably manage and maximize the benefits of such rich natural capital without jeopardizing its future?
Having begun in 2006, the plantations of Stora Enso and Bualapha Agroforestry Co. Ltd. demonstrate that commercial timber production can be done with respect of social and environmental safeguards, contributing to better land use management and policies, high conservation value forest protection and the development of better, sustainable, livelihoods for local people.
During this study tour, we will see that by setting high standards of environmental sustainability, these pioneers of new generation plantations have been able to influence policy in the forestry sector based on concrete results of local population’s socioeconomic development, landscape conservation and business profitability.