3.1 Sustainable forest management in the 21st century
3.2 Forest and biodiversity conservation
3.3 Wood-based industry development
3.4 Human resource development
3.5 Forestry research development
The population of Lao PDR is increasing by 2.9% a year. Given this trend, the population of Lao PDR will be about 8.5 million in the year 2020, i.e. almost double compared to the current population. The economy is also growing relatively rapidly and GDP will more than double during the two decades. The growing economy and population will have a significant impact on the forestry sector:
· the demand for various forest products, including industrial products and also non-timber forest products will increase
· demand for higher quality forest products will increase; if these products cannot be produced in Lao PDR, they have to be imported
· increasing population will put more pressure on the forest and land resources
· the need to conserve biodiversity and protect watersheds will increase.
At the same time when more products and environmental services are needed to meet the needs of the current and future generations, the potential of the forest and land resources to meet the requirements is declining. If the current negative trends such as deforestation continue, the gap between demand and sustainable supply is likely to increase.
To address these issues the GOL is emphasizing the following:
· bring the remaining natural (production) forest under sustainable forest management mainly through involvement of local populations in forest management (e.g. through village forestry)
· develop the forest plantation sector to supply timber and reduce the pressure to exploit the natural forests
· intensify the management of the national biodiversity conservation areas and other protected areas
· strengthen the human resource and research capacity.
In the following sections, these strategies are discussed in more detail.
Forest plantation development
Village forestry development to manage and conserve natural forests
GOL has determined that development of the forestry plantation sector in Lao will be along different lines from the commonly accepted model in the Region. It has broadly determined that the features of the future plantation forestry sector will be:
· Concentration in the hands of many small farmers rather than a few large companies.
· Highly integrated with food crop growing, cattle rearing and aqua-culture rather than tree monocultures.
· Environmentally friendly by using mosaic planting patterns, leaving of existing scattered natural trees during land clearing with protection strips for water bodies, steep areas, and rice paddies etc., and prohibiting conversion of land with food production potential or containing viable non-degraded forest.
· Protection of the social structure, way of life and common lands which are required for sustenance by preventing the disadvantaging of non-participants. This will be achieved by requiring plantation establishment to be subject to a social-technical-environmental survey and granting of a certificate by PAFO followed by regular compliance monitoring by the DOF.
The following objectives of the forest plantation sector follow and support the above principles:
· Re-establishment of tree cover on unstocked and degraded forest lands and converting these to productive use.
· Production of wood for industrial use, construction materials and fuelwood from industrial tree plantations.
· Establishment of a policy and institutional framework for development of sustainable industrial tree plantations.
· Integration of plantation forestry with traditional and modern food growing activities by the smallholders.
· Use of environmental protection and socio-technical land surveys prior to plantation establishment to protect against land and water resources degradation, loss of food production land, loss of peoples land rights, loss of access to NTFP by those who use these for subsistence, and disadvantaging of people by plantation establishment.
Establishment of fast growing exotic and local species commercial plantations will continue and it is expected that 500,000 ha will be established by the year 2020. The fast-growing plantations will be dominated by different Eucalyptus and Acacia species. Teak and local species will also be heavily promoted. It is estimated that by 2020 about 40% of plantations will be teak and local species. Most plantations will be small 1-5 ha, but in terms of area large plantations will gain more importance over time.
Large-scale forest plantation establishment by foreign companies in joint ventures with Lao enterprises will be promoted. These ventures will establish their own plantations but they will also contract farmers to plant trees on their own land. Planting by farmers and private individuals on their own land will be the second largest group of plantations (in terms of area coverage). The third largest group will be planting by private Lao companies on their own land. Until now, there has been very little interest on forest plantation establishment by private Lao companies but with supporting government policies and favourable market development the situation is expected to change.
GOL will continue to have a high profile in the forest plantation development during the next two decades. It will continue to encourage and guide private plantation establishment by providing incentives such as loans, and high quality seed from the National Seed Centre, which is in the process of being formed. One of the major tasks for the government will be creation of a favourable investment environment, including a clear policy and legal framework for commercial plantation management and marketing of forest products.
The Department of Forestry has been developing a national village forestry strategy since 1997. The draft strategy was discussed in a recent national Village Forestry Workshop. The objective is to develop and promote village forestry as one of major systems for the sustainable management of the Lao forests. The strategy is to provide a framework that will direct individual projects so that they will work in a concerted manner toward a common goal of sustainable forest management based on people's participation. Having a national strategy will help in putting the various projects into a unified framework, facilitate coordination, improve resource allocation, provide guidance to various on-going projects so that they conform to the national development objectives, and help in identifying and formulating new projects.
There can be no single forest management system applicable throughout the country. As part of the village forestry strategy implementation specific systems applicable to different conditions e.g. in terms of forest and other biological resources, culture, economy, people and topography, will be developed.
It is envisaged that this objective can be attained in three phases spanning a period of fifteen years. The following outline some of the main activities:
First phase of five years
· A strong policy and legal foundation for village forestry will be built, e.g. Village Forestry Regulations will be drafted and issued.
· The national co-ordination of village forestry projects will be strengthened.
· Various village forestry models, including joint forest management, with their respective concepts, guidelines, and operating procedures will be developed and tested extensively by the different projects, all of which will be sharing experiences and lessons learned.
· Training capacity in village forestry will be strengthened.
Second phase of five years
· Forestry organizations will be partly re-oriented and strengthened to promote village forestry.
· Village forestry related curricula integrated into university forestry programme.
· Village forestry will be integrated into the existing training system.
· Forestry staff already trained in village forestry will be mobilized to train provincial and district staff from other provinces.
· The different provincial and nucleus district forestry offices will promote village forestry.
· Development of appropriate village forestry models will continue to suit a variety of conditions.
Third phase of five or more years
· Strengthening of forestry field organizations in village forestry continues.
· The experiences during the previous ten years will be consolidated and the various models, and related training and educational materials will be modified based on obtained field experiences.
· Village forestry will continue to be promoted so that it is adopted, adapted, and extensively practiced all over the country.
The necessary policy and legal framework for village forestry development will be in place within 1-2 years. It is hoped that appropriate village forestry models for all major forest categories will have been developed, tested and modified for country-wide implementation by the GOL before the end of the year 2010. However, the expansion of village forestry will start in 2000 in areas and conditions, for which functioning systems already exist. In 2010-2020 the programme should already expand to most of the provinces.
Over the coming decade, the Government's commitment to halt losses in forest cover, whether from shifting cultivation or uncontrolled logging, give grounds for cautious optimism that Lao PDR will retain most of its present gross forest cover, with significant representative samples of virgin forest remaining within the protected area system. Less certain are the prospects for retaining viable populations of key wildlife and plant species that are under intensive pressure from rural communities. The risk is that we end up protecting "empty forests". This is the central challenge facing protected area management over the coming decade.
While the strategies for protected area and watershed management seem sound, realities on the ground remain extremely basic. Funds to pay for investments or operating costs are almost wholly dependent on donor project budgets. A very important administrative initiative under development at present is therefore the development of Trust Funds, both for conservation and watershed management that can provide some greater security of funding for the longer term. These are likely to have a significant impact on conservation over the coming decade.
The existing forest industry is not very efficient. Machinery is relatively old and ill-equipped for sawing small dimension logs. The industry is suffering from shortage of logs, and consequently capacity utilization rates are low. The excess capacity and low profitability prohibit investments into upgrading machinery to improve productivity and to make better use of small dimension logs. There is not much room to expand the overall capacity of wood-based industry from the viewpoint of sustainable wood supply. However, there is much room to improve the efficiency of the existing industry and increase the average capacity of mills.
In order to improve the situation, the GOL has done assessments of the capacity as well as quality of the existing wood based plants in the countries. The idea is that the government will take the leadership in processing timber in the country by allowing the three main State forest companies to operate wood processing companies and develop joint ventures with local and foreign private companies. The operation of these companies are monitored, audited and controlled by the state.
The institution of the new economic system will also affect the forest industry. If the forest sector becomes more market-oriented and competitive following the general government policies, it can be expected that the structure of the industry will change. The number of plants will go down, and the average capacity of mechanical wood industry will increase when the private sector starts utilizing the new investment opportunities.
As an example, a modem sawnwood and particleboard complex is being planned for startup in 1998 as joint venture between a foreign and Lao company. Also, a third plywood mill is being planned. Due to raw material constraints, inadequate domestic demand, high production costs and fiercely competitive international market it is unlikely that pulp and paper production capacity will be established in Lao PDR within the next ten years.
Sustainable utilization of forest resources will not allow increasing the volume of forest products exports. However, the GOL has a policy of promoting value-added production and exports. If this policy succeeds, it can be expected that the value of exports will increase in the future. It is also possible that the expansion of the forest plantation sector will allow increasing of exports, especially of pulpwood and wood chips to the Thai market.
By investing into systematic human resource development and development of local forestry education and training institutions, it is hoped that by the year 2020, there would be enough capable forestry professionals to face the challenges of the forestry sector in the 21st century. In the following, the educational and training targets are summarized.
A breakdown of high level qualifications of the following order:
Number in 2020
For Comparison No. in 1995
The trend to raise people's qualifications will therefore be continued. One major initiative will be the upgrading of the National University of Lao PDR which will be in a position to produce its own stream of forestry graduates by the year 2000.
In parallel to these developments, further training will take place at the local level. This will be aimed at developing trained Forestry volunteers in each village, having district staff with the relevant forestry competence and developing provincial subject matter specialists who are able to supply relevant competence and expertise where it is required.
Forestry research is mainly concentrated to the Forestry Research Centre with field research stations in the north, centre and south of Lao PDR. Each section under the FRC has a core staff comprising of at least 1-2 Ph.D. graduates and a various number of MSc graduates.
Areas such as wood technology, watershed management, and some basic sciences are covered by the Faculty of Forestry, including courses also at MSc level. Soil Science is mainly covered by Soil Survey and Land Classification Centre but simple soil classification and test laboratories also exist in Faculty of Forestry and FRC.
A National Herbarium is now the centre for biodiversity research in the country and attracts foreign researchers.
An Advisory Board comprising of various stakeholders assures that the research resources are used for the continuous development of the forestry sector. This Board also administers a national research fund which contributes to funding of the main part of short term forestry research projects.
An Information Services Unit established during 1997-1999 has further developed its role in processing and repackaging research information and data and serve as a link between research and extension activities in the field. Use of modem Information Technologies facilitates the information exchange and cooperation with regional and international research institutions.
The contribution of forestry research to the forestry sector is well recognized and all production forests both natural and plantations are managed according to management plans derived from research results in the country and the region.