Story | 11 Sep, 2020

The MoU signing ceremony and the stakeholders inception workshop for collaborative management of Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Lao PDR is continuing to assist the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO) in Khammouane Province to conserve the biodiversity of Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area and support the effective management of the site over the next five years.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony between the Department of Forestry (DoF) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and IUCN Laos was held on Friday 4 September at the PAFO office in Thakhek, Khammouane province.

Director General of the DoF, Mr. Sousath Xayakoummane, Head of PAFO, Mr. Bounchane Xaypanya and Acting Head of Office of IUCN Laos, Dr. Natalia Pervushina signed the agreement, witnessed by the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Asoka Rasphone and provincial officials.

This 5-year commitment will run until August 31, 2025 and it’s financed by the Arcus Foundation through the project  “Biodiversity Conservation and Effective management of Phou Hin Poun, National Protected Area, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR.”

IUCN has provided technical assistance to Phou Hin Poun NPA since 2011. Significant progress has been made in developing an understanding of the status of gibbons, raising awareness, establishing a total protection zone in a key gibbon habitat, supporting livelihood activities, and establishing community-based patrolling and monitoring. These activities have enabled IUCN to build effective relationships with local communities and government partners.

"Building on IUCN’s long-term commitment to the site, this project will support the development of a five-year management plan for PHP, using a participatory planning process. Particular emphasis will be placed on developing a co-management approach that engages local communities as key stakeholders in the management of the NPA and the conservation of the biodiversity." Dr. Natalia Pervushina said.

This project consists of two components. The first is the management planning development and institutional strengthening of Phou Hin Poun NPA and the second  will be the Implementation of the management plan actions.

The new management plan is a key step in a planning and capacity building process involving the various government agencies with responsibilities and interests in the Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area and the communities living around the site. It sets out a framework for managing the national protected area, including guidelines to control use of its natural resources, and a programme of activities to ensure that its conservation and other values are protected. Most important for the continuing integrity of the site, the management plan incorporates approaches to improve the lives of people who depend on the natural resources for their survival.

“Our department is now planning and developing the World Bank’s Lao Landscapes & Livelihoods project, which is supposed to start in April 2021. Phou Hin Poun is a priority protected area in our landscape project and it’s one of the 10 NPAs considered to be upgraded as national parks in the future, therefore our department will support the idea of establishing an NPA office for Phou Hin Poun,” said Mr. Sousath.

"Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area is biogeographically distinct from other National Protected Areas. It is one of two protected areas in Central Indochina Limestone, and protects a representative sample of the drier western limit of this feature. It is globally important for the Lao Langur (Trachypithecus laotum) and Southern White-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus siki), which are the flagship species of this project, and contains nationally important populations of Assamese Macaques and Indochinese Serow. Other Globally Endangered species recently recording in Phou Hin Poun are Malayan Sun bear, Asiatic Black bear, Clouded leopard, Bintorung and the Sunda Pangolin. Phou Hin Poun contains high levels of endemism of which most have only recently been described including some bats, rats, bird, reptile and amphibians’ species, highlighting its unique contribution to the national system of protected areas in Laos." said Peter Brakels the Biodiversity Programme Manager of IUCN Laos.

The primary management goal is conservation of the biodiversity, scenic and cultural values of Phou Hin Poun NPA through: the protection of key species, habitats, ecological processes, natural features, and cultural sites; the sustainable management and use of other natural resources while acknowledging the social, cultural and economic needs of local communities, respecting their ecological knowledge and resource management expertise, and fairly and equitably sharing with them the burden and benefits of conservation management; and relying primarily on the establishment of co-management arrangements between government and other stakeholders, most importantly the communities in and around the protected area, facilitated by trained and effective conservation staff.

"The main threats to the integrity of the NPA and its distinct biodiversity, are forest degradation, illegal hunting, mining, limestone quarrying, infrastructure development, and unsustainable use of natural resources. More than 67,000 people are living in 99 villages located in and around the area." said Mr. Bounchane.