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Augmenting Missing Linkages: Conservation and Community Resource Management in Lao PDR

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Fujita, Yayoi
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1280
Sector: Forestry
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
community participation
forest management--case studies
forest policy
protected areas--case studies
boundaries--case studies
Abstract: "Sustainable forest management has been placed at the centre of forest policy in Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (hereafter Laos) since 1989 following the First National Conference on Forestry that addressed increasing forest degradation as a national concern. In the last two decades, forest management authority was organisationally restructured and rapid institutionalisation that followed shaped forest management in Laos. Technical and financial support provided by the international organisations in the early 1990s particularly facilitated reclassification of forest areas based on scientific criteria and delineation of new resource boundaries including national reserve forests for biodiversity conservation. This was accompanied by development of legislative statutes that prescribed forest resource use and management. Together, these efforts distinguished state, community, and private resource tenure over land and forest in Laos. "In the pursuit of improved forest management, the government of Laos recognised customary resource access and encouraged local participation in resource management. This was a unique feature compared to its neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia that had often experienced political upheaval and violent conflicts between state and local communities over access and control of forest resources. While less confrontational, the process of resource boundary delineation and designation of national reserve forests in Laos instigated a new type of resource conflict. Increasing resource scarcity in areas where customary resource boundary overlapped with the new resource boundaries. "The main aim of the current paper is to identify missing links in forest conservation in Laos. While the last two decades was essentially devoted to forge an effective linkage between conservation and development goals by decentralising forest management responsibilities to the local authorities, the efforts have not been satisfying as intra- organisational and intra-village linkages remain weak together with lack of consistency in conservation policy. In the paper, I will review the development of conservation policy and creation of national reserve forests in Laos. In the process I will examine how local forests were incorporated into national reserve forests, and how the new conservation policy affected customary resource use. Furthermore, I will examine community responses to new resource boundary based on a case study conducted in northwest Vientiane and investigate whether decentralised forest management in villages surrounding the national reserve forest had strengthened or disintegrated community control over forest and its resources."

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