German State Secretary visits the Lao Forestry Sector

During an official visit to Laos last week, Germany’s Secretary of State of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), his Excellency Mr. Jochen Flasbarth, met with FLEGT stakeholders in Luang Prabang. Among other locations, the delegation visited Thinnakone Wood Processing Factory and School to discuss challenges and opportunities for the Lao forestry and wood processing sectors and the future of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Lao PDR and the European Union.

Dr. Oupakone Alounsavath, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forestry (DOF), presented Village Use Forests as model for sustainable forest management and as a source of timber, followed by the presentation of Mrs. Souphayvanh Thiengchanhxay (Burapha Agroforestry Co.) addressing plantation timber forestry as important contributor to the forest sector development of Lao PDR. The round of presentations was closed by Khamfeua Sirivongs, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), who emphasized the importance and achievements of the FLEGT process. He pointed out that the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), which is an integral part of the national Forest Law, will cover all timber sources, including from plantations and village use forests.

During the following discussion with representatives from DOFI, DOF, Department of Import and Export, Academia, private sector and the FLEGT CSO Network, stakeholders exchanged their perspectives on the key challenges in the forestry sector of Laos, such as the lack of skilled labor in wood processing. The FLEGT stakeholders also discussed the important contributions of the FLEGT process towards reaching the national target of 70% forest cover as set out in the Lao Forest Strategy 2035.

Mr. Flasbarth expressed his support for the Lao efforts to establish a TLAS and to successfully continue the FLEGT process and related governance reforms. After the resumption of bilateral cooperation between both countries, BMZ has pledged to support Laos with 38 million Euros in the coming years.