On January 13th 2022, 36 representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Union (EU) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) gathered to review the achievements and challenges met by the Ecosystem Conservation through Integrated Landscape Management in Lao PDR (ECILL).
“WCS has been working in Laos since the 1980s when they first helped our government survey biodiversity and set up the National Biodiversity Conservation Protected Area system for Laos. WCS Laos was official established in 1993, since then WCS has successfully implemented projects across Laos with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Local government agencies. Today, I would like to thank the EU, AFD, WCS and all my colleagues for the collaboration and hard work that has been gone into protecting our wildlife and our country’s natural resources. We have made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot to be done, especially in light of post- COVID economy recovery.” Dr. Thatheva Saphangthong, Deputy Director General of Department of Agriculture Land and Management, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
ECILL works to ensure the security of Lao PDR forests and biodiversity and assist rural poor in sustainably managing their natural resources by promoting an integrated landscape approach and green growth model. Wildlife friendly livelihood activities such as ecotourism, shade grown coffee, medicinal cardamom, bee keeping, organic farming and bamboo products have provided livelihoods to many surrounding protected areas. At least 3,000 households in 72 forest-dependent communities benefit from an increase in household revenue within the targeted high biodiversity landscapes. These are Nam Et– Phou Louey National Park, Houaphan province, Phou Sithone Endangered Species Conservation Area and Nam Kading National Protected Area in Bolikhamxay province, and the Xe Champhone Ramsar Wetland Complex in Savannakhet province.
Vincent Vire, Head of Cooperation from the Delegation of the European Union said in his opening remarks: “The degradation of ecosystems and decline of biodiversity worldwide exacerbate climate change and threaten the natural processes that protect human health and provide clean air, water and food. The European Union is deeply committed to reverse the degradation of ecosystems and has a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature. Integrated Landscape Management is integral to the EU’s ambitious post-2020 biodiversity and food systems agendas. ECILL in Laos is a good practice example of how biodiversity conservation is advantageous for local communities and villages for the protection of their natural environment and for the increase of their livelihoods.”
AFD underlined the importance of the continuity and sustainability of these good results achieved by the project, particularly with the involvement and collaboration of governmental partners. The monitoring
activities in these landscapes have validated the rich biodiversity these areas hold and have highlighted the importance of protecting them against the drivers of ecological change. Participatory community consultations conducted in Year 2 resulted in improved land-use planning and land-use zoning conducted with the communities across more than 70 villages. Based on these, 58 community conservation agreements and five newly established fish conservation zones were created to improve user rights of communities. Community Conservation Agreements result from the joint efforts of community and local government and form the basis for law enforcement actions. They directly address threats to key species, such as hunting and snaring, and threats to forests such as clearance for agriculture outside of agreed zones.
The ECILL program is funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the European Union (EU), implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in coordination with the Lao government and local communities. Moreover, the project engages with Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the private sector with a focus on responsible investments in agriculture, forestry, and hydropower development with a view to mitigate the potential environmental impacts. ECILL has also provided continued support to the Government of Lao PDR in strengthening policy relating to forest and wetland protection to support the institutionalization of national protected area systems in Lao PDR.