FAO in Laos

Promoting a cost-effective method to restore Lao forests

15/09/2015

Vientiane.- The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) and FAO hosted a forum to further promote the application of “Assisted Natural Regeneration” to restore forests ecosystems affected by land degradation and shifting cultivation in Lao PDR.

Government decision makers and organizations working on the forestry sector attended the forum chaired by Vongdeuane Vongsiharath, Director General of the Department of Forest Resource Management at MONRE and Stephen Rudgard, FAO Representative to Lao PDR.  Forum participants also included representatives from FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Bagong Pagasa Foundation, MONRE and Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) forestry officers, development partners, and the private sector.

Assisted Natural Regeneration is a forest restoration method normally applied in denuded grasslands, degraded forests, and shifting cultivation areas. ANR enables naturally growing young trees to grow faster, with regeneration results  usually evident in less than 3 years instead of 10 – 20 years.

In Lao PDR, forest degradation and shifting cultivation  have taken a toll on soil resources and unplanned  harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) also pose a threat to the sustainable management of forests.

According to the country’s forestry strategy, 70 percent of forest cover should be achieved by naturally regenerating up to 6 million hectares of potential or degraded forest by 2020.  

The forum looked to promote the application of “Assisted Natural Regeneration” to address Lao PDR’s forestry issues as conventional reforestation approaches can be especially daunting due to the financial and human resources required.

Participants highlighted that ANR has been widely implemented across Southeast Asia, proving that costs are 50% lower than conventional reforestation methods. Among long-time champions of ANR in the region are FAO and the Bagong Pagasa Foundation, a non-profit Philippine-based organization that first pioneered the ANR approach.

In 2012, both organizations supported MONRE to introduce ANR-on site training by establishing a demonstration site of 50ha in Feuang district, Vientiane Province. The results proved ANR cost-effectiveness by estimating a cost of USD 450-500 to apply ANR in shifting cultivation areas for a period of 3 years.

Beside the lower cost advantages, other benefits from applying Assisted Natural Regeneration include enabling higher biodiversity compared to monocultures, increased climate resilience, carbon sequestration, and improved livelihoods.