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Sustainability and restoration of Lao PDR’s Forests

CHALLENGE

Lao PDR has 9.5 million ha of forest cover, representing about 40% of land area. Deforestation rates are very high and as much as 80 percent of the country’s forests are now degraded. Despite government efforts to reverse these negative trends by reducing illegal logging and aggressively prosecuting forest crimes and corruption, considerable damage has already been done. Under this context, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Department of Forestry (DOF) are working to institute stronger measures to foster Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and to restore deforested areas or highly degraded forests, which incorporates SFM certification, timber legality assurance systems, and reforestation. 

SFM certification in Laos and its border countries is still in its infancy. Altogether, only around 135,000 ha are certified as sustainably managed—80 percent which are in plantations in Vietnam and Thailand. In Lao PDR, only 10,949 ha of natural forests and 2,606 ha of plantations were certified as sustainably managed (as of January 2017). Cambodia has only 7,000 ha certified and Myanmar has none. 

Barriers to forest certification in Laos include (i) an inadequate enabling environment to foster certification of a significant level for protected forest areas (PFAs) and associated forest products; (ii) lack of perceived benefits; (iii) complex, unclear and prohibitive costs for village plantation group certification; and (iv) lack of a Lao unified group certification system. There is, therefore, a need to develop and disseminate state-of-the-art knowledge in Lao PDR that can demonstrate that forests managed in sustainable ways can provide long-term economic and financial returns for the country, industry and rural communities while generating positive environmental and social benefits.

APPROACH

This activity aims to strengthen understanding of issues, lessons learned and key actions to: i) review forest implementing policies, legal instruments and institutional frames for participatory SFM, forest restoration and reforestation; ii) increase role of certification (sustainability) and verification (legality); and iii) better understanding of the contribution that forests make towards sustainable livelihoods and mitigation of climate change. These outcomes are closely aligned with the Lao PDR Green Growth Development Policy Financing (DPF) operations, which aim to increase Production Forest Area (PFA) Certification to around 230,000 ha from the current 10,949 ha.

The work is being organized into six sub-studies, one final synthesis report, and two validation workshops. The studies will focus on: sustainable forest management; certified wood products; policy support for SFM, chain of custody, and a timber legality assurance scheme; public-private partnerships for forest restoration; economics of certified sustainable forest management; and a retrospective on forest sector development.

RESULTS

There is evidence that the ASA has had an impact on improved understanding of issues and a catalyst for dialogue to address them. Besides the key products mentioned above, the ASA process has supported several legal and regulatory reforms of the forestry and forest industries sectors as part of the on-going dialogue on the enabling environment for SFM, including:

  1. PMO 9 on use of PFA lands for private industrial plantation forests + Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Instruction on implementation (2018);
  2. MAF Ministerial Instruction on Development of TLAS (2018);
  3. On-going inputs to new Forestry Law (TLAS implementation; forest management and chain of custody (CoC) certification; PSFM; Plantation forestry in PFAs; Promoting and streamlining smallholder plantation forestry; Promoting private industrial plantation forestry; and village forestry);
  4. Ministry of Industry and Commerce draft Decision use of CoC certification in the supply chain;
  5. Ministry of Industry and Commerce draft Regulation of Sale and Purchase of Timber (2nd Log Landing);
  6. SUFORD-SU satellite assessment of severely degraded forest lands in PFAs suitable for industrial plantation forests done;
  7. Draft Decree 96 on Promotion of Commercial Plantation Forests;
  8. Process for enabling private sector for reforestation and restoration in PFAs commenced; and
  9. Certification process ongoing (FSC FM 85,000 ha; FSC CW 90,000 ha).

In addition, regular and open dialogue has been established with stakeholders particularly: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Planning and Investment and Department of Forestry; the private sector (forest plantation and wood industries sectors); NGOs; and CBOs;

A high-level national seminar in March 2018 chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and attended by MAF representatives from 18 provinces and key ministries, the private sector and other key stakeholders. The Seminar outcomes has set stage for potential public-private-people partnerships opportunities in PFAs for forest restoration and reforestation.

In May 2018, a Validation Workshop on the Sustainability of Forestry in Lao PDR took place. The proceedings from the Workshop are available here. This activity is ongoing and updates will continue to be shared on this page as they become available.

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Last Updated : 05-05-2019

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