Hin Nam No National Protected Area is one of Lao’s most inaccessible protected areas. GIZ has helped to set up co-management structures, which allow reliance on the skills and knowledge of local people to a large extent in order to ensure adequate management of the site in spite of the rugged terrain. The approach has been promoted as an “Inspiring Protected Area Solution” through the Panorama platform.
Lao PDR has 24 national protected areas, more than most other Southeast Asian countries. Hin Nam No National Protected Area, with its limestone formations, monkeys, leopards and over 520 plant species, is probably one of the most spectacular ones. However, it is also quite inaccessible, with the advantage that the area protects itself, but which makes it difficult to ensure adequate management. Adding to this is a lack of capacity, knowledge and skills of the PA personnel, to address threats such as snare poaching and illegal logging.
To help address these challenges, GIZ has supported the setting up of co-management structures in Hin Nam No as part of the Lao-German cooperation. A participatory zonation served to divide the park between the 19 surrounding “guardian villages” for assigning monitoring responsibilities, building on the knowledge and customary rights of local people.
As a starting point, the GIZ project team facilitated a governance assessment of Hin Nam No, based on the IUCN methodology (see Guidelines “Governance of Protected Areas”). This participatory exercise gave a platform to voice disappointment and problems and it gave ideas on the direction and strategic vision of the Hin Nam No PA by bringing various stakeholders together.
To address the urgent need for more manpower in PA monitoring and patrolling, 77 village rangers were trained in the use of GPS equipment and the recording of wildlife sightings. The village rangers are paid for their work, and seem to be even more effective than full-time government rangers, successfully arresting poachers. This is due to the fact that they are located close-by and can react quickly in case of illegal activities, and other factors.
However, the need to formalize the responsibilities of village rangers became evident, as they felt insecure in implementing law enforcement without endorsed agreements. Thus, co-management agreements were formulated for all 19 villages in a participatory process, and officially delegating management tasks to the villagers.
As a result Hin Nam No has established a vertically integrated co-management structure: Village co-management committees report to village cluster co-management committees, which then report to higher levels. At district level, a district co-management committee brings together government authorities and stakeholders mainly from district level as well as members from village cluster level. Strategic decisions taken at the higher level take into account the input from the village committees. This process ensures that all stakeholders are able to articulate their needs and participate in decision-making.
The new structures involve 244 people in the management of the 82,000 hectares site, where before, the burden laid on 9-12 people. The successes are encouraging: The number of tourists to Hin Nam No has quadrupled within just one year, the populations of key species remain constant, and poaching incidents have decreased. The management effectiveness score has increased by 9%. Should the application that is currently under preparation be successful, Hin Nam No might soon even be on the UNESCO World Heritage List.