Laos: Japan Volunteer Center help Laotian villagers protect their forest

Roughly the same size as Japan, Laos boasted vast tropical forests
until the 1960s. Widespread logging for export brought in an era of
deforestation as the heavily indebted government sought to cover the
costs of civil wars that had ravaged the country and the rebuilding of
infrastructure amid the chaos during and after it won its independence
from France in the mid-1970s. The nongovernmental organization Japan
Volunteer Center, which provides humanitarian aid to 10 developing
countries, including Laos, has been engaged in activities to restore
forests and enhance the lives of farmers and other people in Laos
since 1989. JVC’s reforestation activities have so far focused
primarily on central Laos, including Khammouane Province. The group
trains forest-observation volunteers and helps farmers breed products
such as a type of wisteria that is edible and can be used in crafts.
Deforestation in Laos has accelerated in recent years. In addition to
the debts that prompted the government to cut trees, many farmers burn
off forests to create rice paddies and other crops to make a living.

Forests accounted for 68 percent of Laos’ land in the 1960s, but the
ratio had fallen to 47 percent in 1992 and 41.5 percent in 1997,
according to JVC, which cited a Laotian government study. JVC, which
has regularly stationed two Japanese in Laos since 1989, helps the
government provide villages with forest ownership in line with the
state Land Forest Allocation Program, by surveying the land and
helping draw up village borders. JVC also lobbies Vientiane about
problems that arise in villages and ensures the government and
villages work together to manage forests. “Locals there are not used
to the idea of looking after and taking responsibility for forests. We
are supporting them on that front,” Kawai said. On projects that
enhance livelihoods, JVC provides technology and support to grow rice
and fruit, helps set up “rice banks” that lend rice in poor harvest
years and secures water for agriculture. JVC started similar
activities in Savanakhet Province, adjacent to Khammouane Province, on
Sept. 16. It plans to finish them on March 31.
http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/2885937

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