According to figures published in the FAO Forest Resources Assessment, Laos has the highest proportion of forest cover in South-East Asia (81%). The country’s forests make an important contribution to the economy, and provide jobs and livelihoods to local people. In an effort to promote sustainable forest management the government is revising key policy and legislation, including the National Land Policy and Forestry Law. Despite significant rates of deforestation in Laos, efforts to regenerate forests and increase the area of forest plantations contributed to an increase of the forest area of 1.04% in the period 2005-15.
Drivers of deforestation and degradation
The main drivers of deforestation in Laos are:
- Large and small-scale agriculture, including food and plantation crops such as timber and rubber
- Infrastructure development, including hydropower
The main drivers of forest degradation are:
- Shifting cultivation
- Unsustainable timber extraction, mainly driven by exports to neighbouring countries
To address these drivers, Laos is:
- Strengthening its regulatory frameworks for reducing the impacts of mining and hydropower development
- Improving land-use planning
- Building capacity of smallholders to address deforestation caused by expansion of cash crops and tree plantations
- Promoting sustainable forest management
- Tackling illegal logging by improving law enforcement and monitoring of the timber trade
- Encouraging local communities and the private sector to adopt agroforestry
- Promoting forest regeneration and reforestation
Laos has developed national regulations and policies to protect natural forests and promote sustainable forest management, including the Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020. Recently, it began a process of reforms to its forest and land policies and laws.
REDD+ actors and activities
REDD+ activities are managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which leads a multistakeholder National REDD+ Task Force. The task force is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and promoting all REDD+ activities in the country.
Participation by local communities, ethnic minorities and civil society organisations remains a challenge but the land and forest reform process underway has set a positive precedent for stakeholder engagement.
Laos is a beneficiary of the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Program, and is a partner country of UN-REDD.
Status of FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)
In 2012, Laos and the EU began negotiations towards a VPA to improve forest governance and ensure that only legal timber and timber products reach the EU market. In 2017, Laos and the EU held their first face-to-face VPA negotiations.
For more information, see the Laos page on the EU FLEGT Facility's website.