FAO in Laos

Recognizing the value of biodiversity key to Lao PDR’s development


Vientiane. Representatives from the Government, the U.N, as well as from national and international civil society organizations joined voices to celebrate this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity dedicated to Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, and raise awareness on biodiversity’s importance to Lao PDR’s development.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), in partnership with UNDP, FAO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This year’s International Biodiversity Day reflects on the importance of the U.N’s Sustainable Development Goals and the relevance of biodiversity for sustainable development. Lao PDR has acknowledged the importance of biodiversity for sustainable development in becoming a State party of the International Convention on Biological Diversity in 1996. As a State party, the country adopted its first National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 2006, whose main goal is to make biodiversity a key to poverty eradication by 2020.

Speaking at the event, the U.N agencies’ representatives from UNDP and FAO highlighted the critical role of biodiversity for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Agenda and the inclusion of biodiversity issues in the national post - 2015 development agenda: “There are two Sustainable Development Goals dedicated to biodiversity. One, in particular, addresses key issues to Lao PDR. These are protection and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, managing forests, combating desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss”, said Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative. The speakers also highlighted the ongoing contributions of biodiversity to Lao PDR’s development, stressing biodiversity’s benefits to local economies and jobs, amongst others. It is estimated that the overall contribution of biological resources to the GDP is over 66%.

Dr. Stephen Rudgard, FAO Representative, stressed the large number of species in Lao PDR: At least 200 crop species presently cultivated by farmers in addition to about 500 Non Timber Forests Product species, nearly 500 fish species and at least 1,600 plant species with medicinal properties. “It is critical that we recognize the value of agricultural biodiversity and protect its role and contribution to food security, to commerce, and to maintaining a healthy environment”, Dr. Rudgard mentioned.

FAO and UNDP underlined their commitments to support the government’s designated local and national biodiversity conservation areas, which have high potential for culture and ecotourism activities.

The sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and rural communities largely depend on biodiversity. Wild animals and plants living in the forests and on arable land are known to be particularly important for rural families, especially for their nutrition and income. Fisheries and other aquatic organisms provide 40 percent of the protein consumed by Lao people.

Biodiversity also helps to reduce climate change and risks from disasters. Sustaining healthy ecosystems, including forests and aquatic systems can help to prevent natural disasters such as flooding, landslides and drought.