With aid provided by Finland, Laotian officials clamp down on illegal logging
In Laos, illegal logging and illegal export of timber have substantially decreased over the past couple of years. The credit for this goes to a development cooperation project in which Finland has participated.
Along with the World Bank, Finland has provided financing for a programme in sustainable forestry and rural development in Laos since 1995. Operational models and plans were drafted for the management and use of production forests that the Lao government and local villagers jointly manage.
New methods for revenue generation were created for village people in order to help them become less dependent on money derived from forests.
Furthermore, methods were developed to combat and monitor climate change, legislation was amended and sustainable forestry management and policies were strengthened.
Support given to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Laos has now produced results that are noteworthy even by international standards: illegal logging and the export of timber have been reduced by 70 per cent since April 2016.
The climate benefits when forests are saved
In terms of emissions reductions, the volume of timber saved from logging corresponds to an annual volume of 4.5 million tonnes in carbon dioxide equivalents (tCO2e). Around 40 per cent of this reduction is estimated as attributable to the aid provided by Finland. For comparison: Emissions by Finland in 2016 in carbon dioxide equivalents were around 59 million tonnes.
The change is a combination of several factors. The personnel of the Department of Forest Inspection in Laos, both at its headquarters in Vientiane and in its 18 provinces in the field, have been systematically and pragmatically trained. Modern technology has been adopted. For example, in forestry reporting, smartphones are replaceing paper.
With training and the adoption of new technology, the motivation of personnel has grown. Collaboration with villages in Laos and the neighboring countries has been increased.
High-level political will and support are also necessary. A decree confirmed by the Laotian Prime Minister in April 2016 gave authorities the powers necessary to intervene in crimes involving the trade in timber and wild animals. A clear reduction in the trade in illegal timber demonstrates that this decree is also being enforced.
Success required commitment
Long-term support for the development of Laotian forestry policies has enabled participation in socially sensitive and broad reforms involving many interest groups. Collaboration with the World Bank—a strong actor in the provision of development funding—has made Finland’s position more important in Laos.
For example, an amendment to legislation that increases six-fold the proportion of revenues from logging distributed to local communities could not have been put in place without close discussions with the Lao National Assembly and Laotian authorities.
Although support provided by Finland ended in summer 2017, the World Bank will continue to provide support for sustainable forestry in Laos and to combat climate change. This will strengthen the results already achieved, making them more sustainable.
Laos provides a convincing example that the forestry sector requires long-term action and commitment, including development cooperation. There are no quick wins in the sector.
The author is a Senior Adviser in forestry for Development Policy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.