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Issues in the Conservation and Management of Forests in Laos: The Case of Sangthong District

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Amidst the increasing concern about steadily depleting forests in Laos, this paper examines its causes and existing forest management systems in Sangthong District. Forests in Sangthong were virtually undisturbed until the early 1970s. Guided by customary law, a relatively small local population utilised the forest sustainably for food, fodder, wood fuel and construction materials. Subsequently the government effectively abolished customary law through the declaration of forests as state property and the sanctioning of logging. Logging was banned in the early 1990s but forest degradation continues as a result of ongoing logging, the open access to forests, the government policy of utilising degraded forests for agriculture, and population pressure from in-migration. Village surveys show that local people appreciate ecological and economic values of forest resources and are willing to contribute to their management. These social qualities lay the foundation of a sustainable forest management system, but the evolution of this type of system has been prevented by the “open access” to forest resources. For effective forest conservation a management strategy focused on property rights reform, public participation and integrated rural development is proposed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Environment, Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand

Publication date: 1998-06-01

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