The management of village use forests in Laos will be strengthened to better support livelihoods of local communities and enhance forest protection. Led by the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the ‘Thematic Expert Group on Village Use Forest’ is now established to define what constitutes legal timber from forests managed by local communities and to identify the scope of village use forests, including forest land of individuals and households. The potential for commercial use of timber by local communities and villagers as a means to increase their benefits from forest management will be assessed. The ‘Thematic Expert Group on Village Use Forest’ was launched at workshop on 19 and 20 September 2016, under the ongoing initiative led by the Government and with involvement of civil society, private sector, National Assembly and academia on the Lao EU-FLEGT Process (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade), as part of the preparation for the first face to face negotiation on a FLEGT VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU).
“To improve sustainable forest management and good forest governance, the process can start from the village level as villagers can take a lead role in forest protection”, said Dr. Oupakone Alounsavath, Head of Village Forestry and Non-Timber Forest Product Management Division, Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. “By getting villagers involved, we can improve the procedures of timber utilisation in the village use forests and of individual landholders, to be consistent with laws and regulations. This is to ensure that village forests are protected and developed to be a sustainable timber supply source for villagers and communities as well as an income source to improve their livelihoods”, he added.
Under the framework of the Lao EU-FLEGT process, which is being supported by the German Development Cooperation project ‘Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT Process’ (ProFLEGT), implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit), the ‘Thematic Expert Group on Village Use Forest’ aims to develop a matrix to categorise different types of village forest management according to different types of forest land; to contribute to a draft of Timber Legality Definition regarding the sustainable management, legal use and trade of timber from village use forest; build awareness among concerned stakeholders, particularly local villagers on the use and trade of forest resources; and identity and consolidate laws, rules, regulations and guidelines regarding the legal and sustainable timber utilisation in forest and forest land, and document any possible gaps in the legal framework.
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