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Learning Route, Managing Forests, Sustaining Lives, Improving Livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Groups in the Mekong Region


Mekong Region government representatives and ethnic group leaders gathered today at UN House in Vientiane to attend an Expert Panel on Lao PDR experience on Community Forest Management that officially opened the Learning Route. The panel, hosted by IFAD, explored the existing linkages among the situation of Lao’s ethnic groups, new income-generating activities based on natural resources, land titling and national forestry policies.

The Learning Route aims to disseminate the best practices and innovations in community-based Natural Resource Management carried out by ethnic groups of Lao PDR and Northern Thailand in order to promote their scaling-up at larger scale in the Mekong Region. At the same time, the Route intends to increase awareness on the role of indigenous peoples and ethnic groups in the sustainable management of forest resources and promote their inclusion in policy making processes at national and regional level. With this purpose 25 Government officials and community representatives from Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand will be travelling during one week to learn directly from the host communities and their supporting organizations.

Ms Stefania Dina from IFAD and Mr Samlan Pasentkhamla,
Department of Planning, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry at the opening of the Panel
“The Learning Route is one of the best ways to scale-up innovations, since when people are together they can best share and strengthen their networks” Ms Stefania Dina, CPM for Lao PDR, pointed out. “The topic of this Learning Route is particularly relevant for participants from the Mekong region and of special interest for Lao PDR where the Forestry Law is currently under the process of revision”.

The current Forest Law revision, that should be finalised in June 2013, has as the main objective to ensure sustainability and avoid deforestation and degradation of existing forest areas while, at the same time, to increase forestry to cover 70% by 2020, Ms Unna Chokkalingam from Forest Carbon Asia explained. This has clear implication for forest communities. With 49 recognized ethnic groups, Lao PDR is in fact the most ethnically diverse country of mainland in Southern Asia; many of these communities live in forest areas and base their livelihoods on forest resources. In Lao PDR, the forest land comprises about the 70% of the land, divided into 3 main state-management types: productive forest areas, protection forest area and conservation areas. These areas also comprise other management areas such as village forest; however, there is still confusion regarding land classification and land allocation responsibility.  In this sense, local stakeholders stress the need to increase local people responsibility in the management and protection of forest. To do that, the sharing of experiences at ground level can open-up opportunities for dissemination of good practices. “The final aim is to be able to scale-up innovations in the Mekong region” Stefania Dina concluded “and every one of you can be a champion in doing this after the Learning Route”.

More information on the ongoing Learning Route on:
Participants of the Panel