AFoCO inks project MoU with Lao PDR to restore degraded forests and improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities

24 Sep 2021

Forests play a crucial role in sustaining local livelihoods to advance socio-economic development in Lao PDR. However, the country has been suffering from serious deforestation over the last three decades, which has threatened sustainable development and local livelihoods in the country, affecting those who rely heavily on forest resources to sustain their livelihoods. Consequently, the Government of Lao PDR has made tireless efforts to reverse the situation, exemplified by the AFoCO Landmark Rehabilitation Project, which has developed a site-specific “Village-Driven Forest Restoration Model” in Sangthong and Paksong Districts. Furthermore, the recent update of the forestry legal framework, particularly the revised Forest Law, allows better conditions for forest villagers to use the degraded forestlands in protection forests for commercial purposes. Thus, based on such legal updates, the new project was designed with the overall aim to contribute to the fulfillment of the national target in forest restoration (2.5 million ha).

On 17 September 2021, AFoCO signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project, “Integrated Village-Driven Forest Rehabilitation and Livelihood Improvement in Viengthong District, Bolikhamxay Province, Lao PDR” with the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The project is expected to be carried out over the course of 5 years in Phou Khaen Protection Forest in Viengthong District, Bolikhamxay Province of Lao PDR, from 2021 to 2026, with a budget of USD 1,099,840. By developing and applying different forest restoration measures and generating income from forest restoration activities and the production of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), the project aims to restore degraded forestland and improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in Phou Khaen Protection areas.

The online signing ceremony was attended by Mr. Bounpone Sengthong, the Acting Director-General, Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Mr. Savanh Chanthakhumman, AFoCO National Focal Point of Lao PDR, and Dr. Oupakone Alousavath, Director of Village Forestry and NTFP, and Mr. Philaxay Manilack, Deputy Director of the Planning and Cooperation Division at the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. From the AFoCO Secretariat, the ceremony was attended by Mr. Ricardo L. Calderon, Executive Director of AFoCO, Mr. Jin Sunpil, Vice Executive Director of AFoCO, and Mr. Orlando Panganiban, Director of the Cooperation and Project Division.

“We will be ready to provide much-needed support, be it administrative or technical assistance. Like what you are having in the Forestry Department, we are also beefing up our capacities and in-country and regional presence to better serve the member countries as AFoCO endeavors towards diversification of resources to achieve our vision and mission,” said Mr. Calderon.

Mr. Boupone Sengthong also expressed hopes in his congratulatory remarks that “the result of this project will serve as a useful and crucial information and experience that can be applied to other areas in Lao PDR.”

In closing, the Secretariat reiterated its anticipation for more progressive steps to begin implementing the project on the ground, while strengthening mutual cooperation to achieve the set objectives to restore degraded forestlands and to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in Lao PDR.

Screenshot taken at the virtual signing ceremony

Contributed by Cha Jiyea, Team Assistant

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