Communal Land Titling for sustainable bamboo forestry management in Lao PDR

Communal Land Titling for sustainable bamboo forestry management in Lao PDR

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


On the 13th and 14th of November Learning Route participants visited the communities of Napor and Huayhang in Sangthong district (Vientiane prefecture) to learn from villagers’ good practices in land use planning and bamboo forestry management.  This is the first experience of Communal Land Titles claims and official recognition to communities in Lao PDR: five villages of Ban Xor cluster had their communal land titles approved in 2011 and issued this year.

The process is the result of the good cooperation among villagers, the district government of Sangthong and the NGO GDA, who provided technical assistance to communities in carrying out the survey of forest resources and the definition of land boundaries. Sangthong Local Government considers communal land titling as an effective way to protect the environment and bamboo resources. Today, the experience of Sangthong district is becoming a reference for other districts in Laos for the promotion of sustainable management of communal forest resources. Furthermore, the production of bamboo furniture and handicrafts has become an important source of income for food-insecure households, contributing to improve local livelihoods while at the same time preserving the natural environment.

In Lao PDR, experiences of communal land tenure have recently emerged through the form of delegated management of specific common natural resources, such as land or forest. In this case, the State maintains ownership of the resources and delegates management to local groups for a specific period of time. In the other Asian countries, such as Cambodia and the Philippines, community management activities have demonstrated to be effective to help balancing the ecological system, enhance food security and improve communities’ income-generating activities and access to market for poor households. 

In Lao PDR, the development of community land titles is part of objectives of the Lao’s 5-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan which aims to issue 1.5 million title deeds over the period 2011-2015. However, so far, forest land allocation has largely been limited to leases and concessions for plantation development by private enterprises. Experiences as the one in Sangthong, demonstrates the potential of building upon local communities’ knowledge and skills to reduce poverty while protecting the natural environment.