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Highlights from Lao PDR Fieldwork May-June 2024

Over the past several weeks, starting in early May 2024 our team Phokham Latthachack, Phetsaphone Thanasack and Aye Chan Maung , embarked on a field trip to the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park in northern Laos.

Our goal was to understand the livelihoods and land uses of local communities and how these are shaped by conservation efforts and market demands from neighboring countries. We visited three villages, each in a different district where most of the park areas are situated.

We observed how communities adapt their livelihoods and land use strategies to cope with external forces. They were alarmed to see the rapid transformation of the landscape due to cash crop booms and growing demand for cattle. High inflation, creating a false sense of price hikes in cash crops and cattle, along with policies encouraging cash crop cultivation and cattle farming as means of poverty reduction and rural development, are all significantly transforming livelihoods and land uses in these villages.

We engaged with diverse group of stakeholders from the three districts, including communities, government officials, national park authorities, conservation organizations, and representatives from the private sector.

"We visited three districts and three villages throughout their expedition in order to survey households, to hold focus groups, and collaborate with the community. Together with civil society stakeholders, local government representatives we worked on mapping, drone surveying as we assessed the prospects and management problems in this biodiversity area with community leaders".

"This mission lays the foundation for broader stakeholder engagement activities of our project, which aim to inform conservation policies and practices towards more equitable and effective governance of protected areas".

"Achieving sustainable coexistence demands a collective commitment to transformative change and innovative approaches, guiding us toward a future characterized by harmony and adaptability. Through collaborative efforts, we can establish a path where humans and nature coexist in balance, preserving our planet’s invaluable biodiversity, ecosystems and well-being for present and future generations". 

See our First Field Mission to Northern Lao PDR Highlights video feautirng our team. Filmed by Dr.Eda Elif Tibet, November 2023.

The Bridging Values project, which examines the relationship between local governance in protected areas and global influences, depends heavily on fieldwork. The purpose of this research, which includes six case studies from the Global South and the EU, is to comprehend the effects on governance, social equality, environmental services, and biodiversity. In particular, the project looks at how people's attitudes of nature are changing in Nam-EtPhou Louey National Park, Laos, as a result of trade, cash crop, cattle and the creation of national parks. The objective is to foster values that are supportive of nature and provide long-term benefits for the community.

The Wyss Academy for Nature and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) support our fieldwork as part of the BridgingValues project, headed by Prof.Julie G. Zähringer. Incorporating Dr.Eda Elif Tibet's theoretical insights and advice into our fieldwork has been invaluable alongside to the great support received by Madlaina Michelotti.

The field trip was made possible thanks to the active support of the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO) of Houaphan province and kind collaboration and support of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences (FES) at the National University of Laos (NUoL).

Photographs by  Phetsaphone Thanasack

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