Xonnabouly District, Savannakhet Province, 11 February 2021 –Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Mr. Thongphat Vongmany, Senior Government officials and other stakeholders have joined with UNDP in reviewing the 2020 implementation results at the Annual Review Meeting of the GEF and UNDP supported SAFE Ecosystems Project in Xonnabouly District of Savannakhet Province.
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, government staff from the Department of Forestry, the Provincial and District Agriculture and Forestry Offices, as well as UNDP have worked diligently to achieve project outcomes. The most significant of these has been the creation of the newest National Protected Area: The National Eld’s Deer Sanctuary which spans 130,745 ha across the Dry Dipterocarp Forest landscape of Savannakhet Province.
The National Eld’s Deer Sanctuary is particularly important as it has been classified as an IUCN Category 4 protected area which combines species habitat protection and sustainable land use by rural communities. The namesake of the NPA is attributed to the Endangered Eld’s Deer which inhabits the landscape. This initiative has resulted in the increase of Eld’s deer population from approximately 75 individuals in 2016 to over 120 at the end of 2020 demonstrating that community partnerships and awareness works well in conserving protected areas.
Other significant achievements in 2020 include: completion of facilities at the sanctuary, launching a Decision Support System (DSS), an increase in the areas of reforestation, and community conservation contracts renewed and signed. All of this demonstrated that the project not only aims to conserve endangered species but also supporting the authorities of Savannakhet to have better information to make informed decisions on their resources. Furthermore, the project also continues to contribute to empower communities to manage their natural resources sustainably with livelihoods activities.
Mme. Catherine Phuong, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Lao PDR emphasized that as the project is entering its final year of implementation, “we are starting to see the results of years of inputs and activities supporting the conservation of the Dry Dipterocarp Forest landscape.” She added that, “more than ever as COVID-19 has shown us, it is critical to protect important habitats and their species in order to maintain biodiversity and the potential spread of further zoonotic diseases.”
The event also coincides with the unveiling of and Eld’s Deer Statue within Xonnabouly District Town and the launch of ecotourism activities within the Sanctuary. The lifelike statue, located within the center of town, will enable members of the community to see what these animals look like and build awareness of the species. Wildlife-based ecotourism in partnership with the surrounding communities includes camping, hiking trails, homestay and handicrafts. Ecotourism has the potential to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage of the communities in addition to their enhanced participation in s planning, development and contributing to their well-being.
Mr. Sousath Sayakoummane, Director General of the Department of Forestry stated that, “We are very pleased with the progress of the Project and how it has been able to support the protection of the Eld’s Deer.” He added that, “with the launch of ecotourism activities, we hope that this will be able to bring alternative livelihood opportunities for the local communities, as well as provide some sustainable financing for the management of the new Sanctuary.”
The growth of the ecotourism industry has been particularly important to Lao PDR in generating revenue and income generation to large number of households. Because of industry growth, like many developing countries increasingly regard tourism as key economic sector to their pursuit for economic development. Ecotourism provides opportunities to diversify local economies and support the growth of local enterprises, many of which are owned by women and youth.
Funded by the GEF and UNDP, the Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Forest Ecosystems of Southern Lao PDR (SAFE Ecosystems) project is jointly implemented by UNDP Laos and the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The project is being implemented in the forested landscape of Savannakhet province in order to secure the critical wildlife habitats, conserve biodiversity and maintain a continuous flow of multiple services through (i) assisting government agencies in developing enabling policy environment, (ii) strengthening resource management of government agencies, local communities and private sector actors, while (iii) developing sustainable financing mechanisms and programs (including ecotourism and livelihood programs) that can ensure the sustainably of land use and resource management approaches.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Thome Xaisongkham
Programme Analyst, Natural Resource Management and Climate Change
United Nations Development Programme, Lao PDR
Office: +856 21 267 710 EXT: 782
Mobile: +856 20 22234436
Mr. Keophouvong Chanthapanya
Deputy Head, Wildlife and Aquatic Resources Division,
Department of Forestry
Project Manager, SAFE Ecosystems Project.
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Mobile: +856 20 9985 9689