The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the World Bank have launched a $57 million Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project that will generate jobs and income in rural areas by promoting investment in environmentally sustainable and socially-responsible forest and landscape management, and in the preservation of Lao PDR’s natural capital. The project is funded by the Bank’s International Development Association, with contributions from the Global Environment Facility and the Canada-World Bank Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility.
The project starts at a time when Laos is facing the added economic burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, with GDP growth slowing and poverty increasing by an estimated 1.4-3.1 percent in 2020.
“Forest landscapes account for 70 percent of our country’s landmass and host almost 70 percent of our people,” said H.E. Mr. Thongphat Vongmany, Vice-Minister for Agriculture and Forestry for Lao PDR, speaking at an event to launch the project. “Forests are critical to recovery from the economic slowdown associated with COVID-19, and to reducing vulnerability to climate risks. This land is our natural wealth, and by improving its management we can kickstart greener, more resilient growth.”
Poverty in Laos is concentrated in rural areas, most of which are forestlands. The World Bank’s 2020 Poverty Assessment shows that the country’s poverty hotspots are now in the central provinces, which are home to areas with rich potential for productive forestry and nature-based tourism.
Designed as part of the 2030 National Green Growth Strategy, the project prioritizes conservation, tourism development, timber and non-timber production to provide economic growth, jobs, and livelihoods in around 600 villages across 8 provinces.
“Lao forests possess globally significant biodiversity and habitat integrity, and these can be promoted to attract tourism that generates jobs and livelihoods,” said World Bank Lao PDR Country Manager Alex Kremer., In addition, production forests could create up to 300,000 jobs through private investment in environmentally and socially sustainable plantations to meet growing international demand for ‘good wood’.”
The project will help government institutions strengthen public policy and strategy to meet international standards and commitments, and will set up a coordination platform involving authorities, development partners, villagers, and the private sector to inform decision-making. The aim is to increase or at least maintain the amount of forest cover in five large priority landscapes, while engaging households in improved livelihood activities, with at least half of the new jobs going to women.