Empowering women, enriching ecosystems: Laos’ reforestation initiative

By Climate Champions | November 13, 2023

Project title: Enhancing Forest Ecosystem Integrity in Laos PDR

Partner / Implementer: Global EverGreening Alliance (partner), WWF Laos (implementer)

Country & Region: Laos, South East Asia

Impact: 300 households, 30,000 trees planted in 185 Ha.

In the Xe Pian region of Laos, a collaborative effort between Race to Resilience partner, the Global EverGreening Alliance, WWF, and the Arbor Day Foundation is underway to address the urgent issue of deforestation and its impact on local communities and biodiversity. This reforestation project is a strategic intervention aimed at restoring ecological balance and providing sustainable pathways for community development.

Laos, with its lush landscapes and rich natural resources, has long been a country where the rural population depends heavily on the environment for their livelihoods. However, deforestation for agriculture, illegal logging, and the demand for wood fuel have taken a toll on the country’s forest cover, leading to soil degradation, loss of habitat for wildlife, and reduced carbon sequestration capacity.

The project’s goal to plant 30,000 trees goes beyond environmental restoration; it’s about creating a green infrastructure to support the region’s agroforestry practices. Agroforestry, the integration of trees into farming landscapes, is a practice that can help improve crop yields, prevent soil erosion, and maintain water quality by stabilizing the soil and reducing runoff.

By focusing on forest buffer zones, the project aims to create barriers that protect the forests from encroachment and connect fragmented habitats, which is crucial for the movement and survival of wildlife. These zones also act as a shield for agricultural lands against the impacts of extreme weather events, which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change.

The inclusion of women in the project is a deliberate strategy to ensure that the benefits of reforestation are equitably shared. Women in rural Laos are often the custodians of traditional agricultural knowledge and play a central role in managing natural resources. Empowering them through this project not only promotes gender equality but also ensures the success and sustainability of the reforestation efforts.

The project has to date planted 6,300 seedlings across 185ha within the Xe Pian region, which stretches across the Champasak and Attapue provinces in southern Laos. The trees planted are native species, carefully selected to thrive in the local conditions and to provide the maximum benefit for the ecosystem. The restoration targets forest buffer zones to maximize impact, with the dual focus of expanding agroforestry practices and reinforcing the ecological integrity of the area. This approach not only alleviates the compounding pressures on forest systems but also benefits the 300 households in the region. Local knowledge and practices are prioritized in the planting process, reducing the need for fertilizers or fungicides and ensuring a more sustainable and environmentally friendly growth of the new trees.

The project’s progress within the Xe Pian region, particularly the planting of seedlings across 185 hectares, is a clear indicator of its scale and ambition. The forests of Xe Pian, known for their stunning biodiversity and intrinsic value, are critical in securing the livelihoods of local communities and preserving the landscape’s carbon sink capacity. With these ecosystems under pressure, the initiative provides a much-needed socio-economic buffer to nature-dependent communities that may already be marginalized.

By incorporating smallholder farmers and scaling up agroforestry, the project has the potential to be transformative. Integrating trees into agricultural land not only improves soil fertility but also agricultural yield and income. From an ecological perspective, these trees can attract biodiversity back to the area and improve nutrient and water cycling.

Asia-Pacific Climate Week takes place from 13-17 November 2023, drawing stakeholders, experts, and policymakers from across the region to showcase solutions and innovations, and to foster increased cooperation across borders and sectors in addressing pressing climate challenges. Find out more.