Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Laos shares land and forestry management goals

Vientiane Times, Aug 29, 2012.

Land and forestry is the primary resource of the nation, and needs to be managed properly in order to improve local people’s living conditions and further socio-economic development in Laos. To manage these natural resources sustainably and for the benefit of all Lao people, the country should have suitable policies and good mechanisms for implementation, Vice President of the National Assembly, Dr Xaysomphone Phomvihane said at the workshop on land and forestry tenure reform in Vientiane yesterday.

Appropriate policy and good legal mechanisms will make domestic and foreign investors confident and attract more companies to invest within the country, he said. The workshop is being held with the aim of improving knowledge about land and forest use and management among Lao government officials, especially land and forestry authorities. In this workshop, participants will be able to increase their understanding about land and forest use and management from experts from eleven countries including Sweden, Norway, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico.

Dr Xaysomphone believes that lessons learnt from these countries will be valuable when it comes to modeling and implementation of land and forest policies in Laos. Sustainable land and forestry management, efficiency and environmental safeguards will contribute to gross domestic production (GDP) expansion of around eight percent per year and remove Laos from least developed country status by 2020, he said. Lao citizens also have rights to use the land for their needs. The law should reflect the need for people to build houses or do business and allow land to become a resource for the nation and its people, said Dr Xaysomphone. However, considering the land policy of Laos in the past, there are many things that can be improved, he added. Laos has substantial forestry resources, constituting about 40 percent of the land area in 2010, but natural forests are threatened by issues such as shifting cultivation, illegal logging and agricultural expansion as well as land concessions for projects including hydropower development and mining.

Forest loss and degradation have in recent decades led to a dramatic decline of natural forests from 70 percent of the nation’s land in the 1940s to 40 percent in 2010 and to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent nationwide forest cover assessment indicates a partial stabilisation of forest cover loss and local improvements, according to the Forestry Department. To achieve the target of restoring forest cover, the land and forestry management sector should exchange and share experiences and lessons within Laos and abroad in order to determine the best models to implement in Laos. The workshop was organised by the National Assembly, supported by the Centre for People and Forests and Rights and Resources.

 

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