To save our future by ourselves

In Laos, more than 60% of the population resides in rural areas, living a life dependent on nature. Common resources such as land, forests, and rivers are the basis of local people’s lives. However, with the development of plantations, the land has been expropriated from the people, and the forests have been cut without their consent. In addition, the forests have been diminishing without being noticed because the community people grow cash crops themselves. To prevent the expropriation of resources and amend overdevelopment, we support sustainable management and use of the common resources from a long-term perspective of villagers, setting a high value on “villager-centered”.

Activities in 2022

Collection of basic information about the villages and introduction of a management system of common resources

In three villages in La Mam and Tha Teng districts, Sekong Province, we collected basic information such as population, history, products, village borders, and so on. We worked together with the villagers and summarized it in leaflets. During this procedure, we and the villagers recognized that common resources are valuable as a source of food and income, however, that they are reducing. We introduced community forests and fish protection areas into two villages where a management system of common resources was needed. We placed signboards in the villages showing maps and regulations and held a commemoration ceremony to which we invited villagers and officials.

A commemoration ceremony for the establishment of community forests

Legal training workshops and action against overdevelopment

Cooperating with other NGOs and related administrative offices, we made legal calendars to facilitate the villagers’ legal education in our training workshops. We held a presentation meeting of the calendar with 25 participants from central, municipal, and county government offices and a company that runs a rubber plantation. Beyond that, we also implemented legal training in two villages using the legal calendar. In addition, we approached the related administrative organizations with solutions to address the possibility of a company would start fruit plantations against the villagers’ will, including ordering the company to cease operations.

Villagers exchange opinions by looking at legal calendars.

Results and challenges in 2022

Support for the management and use of common resources

In the three villages where we distributed leaflets about common resources, we have seen cases of the villagers themselves asking the whole village to preserve the resources. This led to the recognition of the value of common resources and the introduction of a resource management system. The community forests and fish protection areas are expected to be managed sustainably and continuously in two villages. Officials in the two villages, where we implemented legal training, basically understand the contents of the training. We will investigate more effective training methods for the villages to address development issues by themselves. We will also look into strategies to ensure the rectification of policies to combat overdevelopment.

Discussion about the community forest

Activity plan for 2023

Supporting the management and use of common resources by villagers

Participants of the legal training

We will continue to support local villagers’ recognition of the values and issues of common resources, and work towards creating a system regarding their use and management with the consultation of local villagers’ own experiences. In addition, we will provide legal training for the villagers so that they can respond to the development issues they face. When we witness overdevelopment in our activity areas, we will approach the developers and related administrative organizations asking for its rectification. We will also conduct evaluation of projects to judge if they should be continued or ended. Furthermore, we will cooperate with the people being affected by the economic development in Southeast Asia to spread information about the current situation and draw up proposals to stop overdevelopment.

Basi, a traditional ritual in the commemoration ceremony for the establishment of community forests

A villager holds a new legal calendar 2023.

Voices and Messages

Now I have the confidence to protect my village

Bunsong, Village Chief of Toumgno Village

The northern part of our village borders a prefecture where a company started a feasibility study to build a fruit plantation a few years ago. I heard that there are risks that we would be deprived of our forest in this area, because it is said to belong to the neighboring prefecture. This situation has worried me very much. So, I talked with JVC and neighboring villages, we confirmed that the northern forest belonged to us as we had recognized before, and we were able to preserve it as a community forest. We informed the county administrative organization of the issue, and the forest was approved as a community forest. JVC gave us a leaflet that included information about our village and a large map that showed the village boundaries. Since JVC provided us with legal training, we have confidence that we can protect our forest and our land by ourselves.

I hope for a world where villagers’ wills are respected

Kino Khanhthamaly, Project Officer

In the middle of the cassava cultivation boom, the villagers may concentrate on expanding the cultivation area without noticing that they are destroying their lands, forests, water resources, and the environment which are the most important resources. However, growing cash crops such as cassava is the only way for the villagers to make a living. Though the price of cassava has increased every year, the villagers are worried about the decrease of common resources and possible price decline of cassava in the future. So, JVC supports the villagers in managing and using their common resources by themselves. We will continue to help them protect and change their community by themselves.

[Source: JVC Annual Report 2022]

Share This: