A foundational element of WCS Lao PDR’s Savannakhet Landscape program is supporting communities in the Xe Champhone wetlands to develop land and resource-use plans that improve local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. This landscape holds Lao PDR’s largest seasonal wetland complex with annual patterns of flooding that support an abundance of aquatic biodiversity. The ecosystem’s productive fisheries are relied upon by more than 30 communities, as well as one of the world’s last remaining populations of critically endangered Siamese crocodile, endangered turtle species, and wetland birds. Marsh and flooded forest habitats provide economically important NTFPs and storage for water utilized by communities for rice production.
Despite the wetlands importance, a lack of informed, cohesive, resource and land-use planning has resulted in the over exploitation of fisheries and degradation of land and water. Clearing of land near the edge of wetlands has reduced habitat for fisheries and increased the rate of sedimentation, reducing water availability for both wildlife and human use. The degradation of the wetlands ecosystem services has worsened the impacts of climate-change induced drought and flooding which increasingly lead to crop loss events and reduce availability of critical habitat for endangered species. These issues are recognized by communities and government stakeholders, who understand that improved planning and resource management is needed for the long-term benefits of both people and wildlife.
To achieve sustainable use of the Xe Champhone Wetlands, the WCS Savannakhet Landscape team has worked with experts in wetland ecology, fisheries, and community land-use planning for the last year to develop the Participatory Wetlands, Landscape, Landuse, and Livelihoods Assessment, Mapping, and Planning (P-WELLLAMP) Framework, under funding from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and EU/AFD ECILL. Phase 1 of the P-WELLLAMP framework involves intensive participatory data collection and mapping, engaging 100% of households in each partner village over a 10-month period to establish clear understanding of how livelihoods, resource-use, natural habitats, and biodiversity shift within this dynamic, seasonal wetland. After the piloting of Phase 1 is completed in mid-2021, WCS will work with stakeholders in Phase 2, to establish long-term plans for sustainable use, utilizing these rigorous socio-economic, ecological, and spatial datasets to prioritize areas for biodiversity conservation, fisheries management, agriculture, ecotourism, and other improved livelihood activities.
The P-WELLLAMP process is now being piloted in Champhone District, with 7 partner villages bordering the Xe Champhone Wetland Ramsar Site. On September 3, 2020, WCS hosted a workshop on the P-WELLLAMP process, chaired by the Deputy Governor of Champhone District, with participants from PAFO, DAFO, PoNRE, DoNRE, DOHA, Champhone Women’s Union, and the heads of each partner village and village cluster. The following week, work began in the villages of Taleo and Dondaeng for wet-season data collection and mapping. This process, which will be added to in the transition and dry-season, begins with the mapping of natural habitats, invasive plants, waterbodies, fisheries, agricultural production areas, and irrigation systems. These maps are enhanced by further data-collection from wildlife and fish surveys, household interviews to determine current use of land and resources for each family in the village, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) processes to identify threats and conflicts tied to natural resources (including spatial risk for floods and drought), and the review of any existing or previous land and resource management plans.
Author: Samuel Leslie, Savannakhet Landscape Technical Director