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BRIDGING VALUES Exploratory Field Mission to Lao PDR (Nov 2023)

Updated: Jun 26


A higlights video on the field mission to Northern Lao PDR featuring Prof.Julie Zahringer and her team Land Systems and Sustainability Transformations, Wyss Academy for Nature. Filmed by Dr.Eda Elif Tibet.


In November 2023, Wyss Academy “Land Systems and Sustainability Transformations” team, led by Prof. Dr. Julie Zähringer, embarked on an exploratory field mission as part of the BridgingValues (Biodiversa+) research project in northern Laos.


The primary objectives of the mission were to:


1) Sign the Letter of Agreement with the Faculty of Environmental Science (FES) at the National University of Laos (NUoL);


2) Engage with key stakeholders who are involved in the governance and conservation of the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park landscape;


3) Visit potential local community representatives in various villages, to identify the scope of  the research project;


4) Gain on-the-ground information and knowledge about the NEPL National Park and its surrounding landscape to help design the research approach, methods and methodologies.




Location, logistics and participants:


The fieldwork was carried out in the Huaphanh province as most of the National Park is located in this province. The team visited Xamneua, the provincial capital of Huaphanh province, Add district, Sone district and Huim district. Most of the National Park falls within the administrative boundaries of Sone district. The National Park management unit is located in Huim.


Within each district, the team first met with various district-level government officials and then visited between 2-3 villages per district. See figure 1 for an overview of the locations visited and the roads travelled. Due to the conditions of the road, we travelled in pick-up trucks between districts and villages. We stayed in guesthouses in the different district capitals and travelled to the villages for meetings from the respective district capitals. Phokham, Phetsaphone, Mr Soulinphone and DAFO officials were instrumental in organizing district and village level meetings.



The participating research team members whom conducted the field work are:


  • Prof. Dr. Julie Zähringer (Professor of Land Systems and Sustainability Transformations)

  • Dr. Eda Elif Tibet (Post-doctoral Researcher)

  • Ms. Madlaina Michelotti (Research Associate)

  • Mr. Phokham Latthachack (PhD Candidate and National Research Coordinator)

  • Ms. Phetsaphone Thanasack (PhD Candidate)

  • Mr. Aye Chan Maung (PhD Candidate)


Additionally, Mr Soulinphone (Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO) official) accompanied us for the duration of the NEPL National Park trip and district officials accompanied us to the villages.


MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS:



Our mission started with signing a Letter of Agreement with the National University of Laos (NUoL), Faculty of Environmental Sciences, which serves as a key foundation for implementing the Bridging Values project and future collaborations.


During our mission, we engaged with various officials from different government agencies at provincial and district levels, non-governmental organizations and seven communities within the NEPL NP Landscape.


The exploratory mission provided us with invaluable insights on the situation on-the-ground in the National Park, and dynamics of both livelihoods and land systems, and how they are interconnected.



NEXT STEPS:




In 2024, led by Dr. Eda Elif Tibet, our team will design a transdisciplinary stakeholder engagement process, consisting a range of participatory activities, events and workshops, that will take place throughout the duration of the project.


A stakeholder meeting will be held early next year (February 2024) in Xamneua district with representatives from PAFO (Huaphanh province), and DAFO (Add district, Sone district and Huim district). The main objectives of this meeting, which will be facilitated by Phokhham Latthachack, will be to share our team’s insights from this field mission and to inform them about our future plans for the upcoming months.


Aye Chan Maung will design the research approach for his PhD and develop questionnaires for the field data collection. Tentatively, the first field data collection for his PhD is planned from April to July 2024. Phokham Latthachack and Phetsaphone Thanasack will also work on finalizing their respective PhD research plans and preliminary fieldwork will be planned in 2024.


Finally, we will work on finalizing the overall project activity plan for 2024, that will include additional stakeholder meetings (i.e., with the Country Director of WCS and the LLL Project team from Huaphanh province). Further discussions will take place with the FES Biodiversity Lab to develop a collaborative project in the NEPL NP landscape and necessary permissions will be taken to further improve the documentary film aspect for our dissemination as part of our wider impact strategy.




Text by Aye Chan Maung & Madlaina Michelotti

Photographs by Dr.Eda Elif Tibet & Phetsaphone Thanasack

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