IUCN - Engaging local communities, authorities and academic in Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Livelihoods along the Mekong River

Engaging local communities, authorities and academic in Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Livelihoods along the Mekong River

26 September 2013 | Article

Finalization of Phase 2 of the CEPF supported “Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Livelihoods along the Mekong River in Luang Phrabang, Xayabouri and Vientiane Provinces, Laos

On July 4 2013, IUCN Lao PDR hosted a one-day workshop at its Vientiane office. The workshop participants included representatives from several environmental agencies at district, provincial, and central government-level of the study area, as well as representatives from the Faculty of Science at the National University of Laos, FISHBIO, and the Lao Biodiversity Association (which is an IUCN member). The objective of the workshop was to report to all levels of government on the achievements and future plans of IUCN Lao PDR’s project “Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Livelihoods along the Mekong River in Luang Phrabang, Xayabouri and Vientiane Provinces, Laoswhich was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

During the workshop, IUCN staff presented the achievements so far in Phase 1 and 2 as well as plans for future projects in Phase 3. Presentations were given on a variety of proposed projects including turtle nest protection and community conservation areas but focused especially on a series of Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs) already under development in the study area. Participants were introduced to the concept of Fish Conservation Zones and their benefits to both endangered species conservation and local income improvement by enforcing a fishing ban in spawning and resting habitat for IUCN Red List, endangered species Probarbus jullieni and Probarbus labeamajor. Participants discussed and clarified questions relating to how different levels of government could work with local communities, IUCN, and FISHBIO to ensure successful implementation of these projects.

Following this workshop, a series of participatory workshops were held in proposed project sites from July 12 to 19. These communities had already participated in workshops to draft regulations and boundaries for FCZs and now following the workshop with government officials in Vientiane could participate in the finalization of their drafts for approval by their District Governors’ office. During this field trip, 8 communities agreed on the creation of 4 FCZs totaling 160 hectares of river that will be closed to fishing during the spawning season for endangered species.

It was great to see such enthusiasm from the community members; they have a real understanding that by working to conserve biodiversity they are improving their livelihoods as well”, said Mr. Souvanny Ounmany, IUCN Lao PDR Project Field Coordinator. It is hoped that local management and enforcement groups will be ready to implement the regulations by December 2013.

This phase of the CEPF project came to a close on August 16 at the National University of Laos, with a conference to present findings and project development proposals hosted by the Faculty of Science.Dr. Somchan Bounphanmy,  Dean of the Faculty of Science, gave an opening address to the over 100 researchers, officials, and students, where she spoke about all of the achievements her faculty and IUCN had achieved, saying “In all phases of the work our faculty and staff provided expert guidance, while our students gained valuable work experience and training”. Presentations were given by staff from IUCN, FoS, Living Aquatic Resource Research Institute (LARReC) and FISHBIO. Students and research assistants from the Faculty of Science gave accounts of their time in working and training with national and international consultants. This collaboration with the Faculty of Science led to meaningful survey results and provided hands-on training for Lao PDR’s future conservation leaders.

The biodiversity report as well as the livelihood assessment will be available for downloading on IUCN’s website.

For more information, please contact:

Raphaël Glémet
Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator
raphael.glemet@iucn.org