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Consultation workshop for approval the customary laws based community regulations in watershed forestland management in Luang Prabang, Laos
The Kuang Si region plays an important geographical position not only in terms of enviromental ecology and watershed, but also cultural and livelihood space of more than 5,000 peoples of indigenous ethnic groups such as Hmong, Khmu, Lao Loum and Lu, etc. These groups together live in 7 villages of districts of Luang Prabang, Xiang Nguen and Muong Nan, Luang Prabang province, Laos. Over many generations, these indigenous ethnic groups in this watershed area have formed their customary law rules to manage, protect, use and develop 104 community forests, including spirit forest. These are spatial cultural and livelihood centers from which the religious beliefs through rituals to worshiping Nature’s Spirit, morality, community structure and behavior of the villagers with forest, land and water resources are formed and transmitted through generations.

Consultation workshop on customary law based community regulation in forest management in 6.10.2016 (Photo: CHESH Lao)
In the morning of October 10, 2016, in the Luang Prabang District People’s Committee Office, the consultation workshop for approval of the customary laws based community regulations in forest and forestland management, protection and development of 7 villages in the Kuang Si region – watershed of Muong Nam, Luang Prabang and Xiang Nguen districts was held. This is one of a series of activities in the cooperation and development program between Luang Prabang District People’s Committee, Luang Prabang Provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry Luang Prabang Province Office (PAFO) and CHESH Lao / SPERI regarding research and support in sustainable co-management, protection and usage of forest and forestland in the Kuangsi area.

Given the important implication in terms of socio-culture, environment and livelihood of indigenous ethnic groups living in the Kuang Si region, the workshop has attracted the attention of leadership, state management agencies of the provincial forestry, districts where the project taken place, representing 7 villages and local press agencies such as Luang Prabang Provincial / District People’s Committee, PAFO, Offices of Agriculture and Forestry of Xiang Nguen, Muong Nan and Luang Prabang, and the Luang Prabang Hmong Association.

Representatives of the Provincial Forest Land Allocation and leaders of 7 villages reported the results of development of customary laws based community regulations in forest management, protection and development in the Kuangsi region. These regulations have been recorded, consulted and developed by local villagers, villages’ leaders, elders, district and provincial functional agencies. Simultaneously, the workshop also discussed measures to deal with difficulties to effectively meet the practical needs as well as stated targets. Typically, the difficulty is happened in Long Lan May village. As being newly established, the village does not enough land to meet the increasing large number of cattle lands. Therefore, the village proposed district and provincial governments to allow conversion of some usage forest areas into pasture land to meet the demand for cattle feed.

Tha Pene villagers together discussed the community regulation in forest management (Photo: CHESH Lao)

Having chaired and listened to the reports and opinion raised by village representatives, Mr. Xay Xa Mon – Deputy Chairman of Luang Prabang Provincial People’s Committee highly appreciated the integration between customary law and statutory law in co-management of forestland, especially in the watershed areas which have an important role and strategic importance as Kuang Si. He also said that customary law and statutory law are both developed by the people on the basis of objective reality. Therefore, the management and use of forests and forestland is planned upon decisions of local communities. The lack of pasture land of Long Lau May village could be resolved through conversion of other available land in the village. However, three district offices of agriculture and foresty of Luang Prabang, Xiang Ngan and Muong Nam, and village leaders should coordinate with the CHESH Lao / SPERI to carefully study the most suitable solution to make plans for this conversion if necessary to meet the economic development and environmental sustainability, avoiding the case of taking advantage to destroy forests or convert natural forestland into industrial plantations. On the other hand, local communities in the Kuang Si region should have more self-reliance to better sustainably manage forest and forestland resources.
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