Laos has a great variety of tropical forest ecosystems distributed over mountains, plateaus and plains. Laos designates three main forest categories which are owned by the State and under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) mandate. These are: Production Forest Areas, Conservation Forest Areas, and Protection Forest Areas.
Forest is valuable, but deforestation rates are high and about 80% of the country’s forests are degraded or highly degraded. Forest degradation results in the release of greenhouse gasses and the loss of economic, ecological and sociocultural functions, which negatively impacts rural livelihoods. Once degraded, forests become vulnerable to permanent conversion to agriculture given that national policy allows degraded forestland to be allocated for non-forest purposes.
Data from the National Forest Inventory (2018) found that between 2005 and 2015, forest cover in Production Forest Areas fell by 4.2%, in Protection Forest Areas by 3.3%, and Conservation Forest Areas by 1.8%. Overall, forest cover fell by 0.36% per year and from 60.9% in 2000 to 58% in 2015.
Deforestation is mainly driven by the expansion of agriculture and clearing for hydropower projects, mining sites and other infrastructure development. Unsustainable timber extraction, shifting cultivation, and harvesting of non-timber forest products has caused forest degradation. Illegal logging and cross-border trade were widespread until recently and contributed to both deforestation and degradation.
In 2015, Laos’ Department of Forestry estimated the national planted forests area at 446,000 hectares, composed mainly of rubber, eucalyptus and acacia, teak, and agarwood. Rubber established for latex production comprised over half of the area.
Laos aims to achieve 70% forest cover by 2020. To reach this target, the government is encouraging the private sector to establish tree plantations such as rubber, agar wood, teak and eucalyptus, and is promoting sustainable forest management and payment for ecosystem services. An enabling regulatory environment is being fostered through national strategies including the ‘National Socio-economic Development Plan 2016-2020’, the ‘Forestry Strategy’ and the ‘National Green Growth Strategy 2019-2030’.
The National Socio-economic Development Plan envisions that increased forest cover will help to reduce poverty, create jobs and livelihoods, support local industry and expand participatory sustainable forest management and forest restoration, while also helping to meet the Lao Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Smallholder farming in the Luang Prabang province, Laos by Christophe Van Orshoven, EU REDD Facility
EU REDD Facility work in Laos
We work with the Department of Forestry and with other government partners to strengthen forestry sector governance and reduce deforestation and forest degradation in support of Laos’ NDC.
Our focus is on:
- Strengthening the engagement of state and non-state actors in forest and land-use related policy processes.
- Supporting policy and legislative coordination and coherence with respect to sustainable forest management, timber production and trade, and climate change, REDD+ and the Laos–EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement.
- Supporting the clarification and implementation of forest-related legal frameworks.
EU REDD Facility Actions in Laos
In Laos, the EU REDD Facility focuses on implementing actions that connect REDD+ and FLEGT to address drivers of deforestation and degradation. These actions include:
- Raising stakeholder’s awareness of forest related policy and legislation and its purpose to ensure that they build on stakeholder’s rights, responsibilities, needs and capabilities – primarily through support for multi-stakeholder consultations to revise the Forestry Strategy to the Year 2030.
- Supporting the integration of commitments made under the EU-Laos FLEGT VPA process into forest-related policy and legislation by developing pilot VPA related indicators for possible inclusion in the Forestry Strategy 2030 monitoring and evaluation framework.
- Linking REDD+ and FLEGT related efforts in addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and in supporting sustainable forest management and improved forest sector governance.
Rice plantations in the Luang Prabang province, Laos by Christophe Van Orshoven, EU REDD Facility
Laos’ FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement
In 2012, Laos and the EU began a process to move towards negotiation of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to promote trade in legal timber products and improve forest governance. The first negotiation session was held in 2017. In 2019, the country announced commitments to amend sectoral strategy and policies such as Forestry Strategy as well as to linking FLEGT and REDD+ under the framework of the National Green Growth Strategy. For more information, see the Laos page on the EU FLEGT Facility's website.