Wood is good. It’s a renewable resource with an extraordinary range of uses. Building and furnishing our houses; cooking our food and heating our homes; disseminating ideas and cultural heritages; and improving sanitation and hygiene.

To illustrate the importance of wood in our lives and to raise awareness about responsible forest management and biodiversity conservation in the wood supply chains, the Government of Laos hosted the 2018 World Wood Day celebration on March 29-31 in Vientiane Capital.

Through the demonstration of arts in wood carving, wood-based music performances, memorial tree planting, and wood-oriented children awareness programs, the three-day event drew over 400 participants locally and internationally.

Laos today is at a crucial crossroad. The country is one of the last stronghold of dense natural forests in the Mekong region, harboring rich biodiversity and supporting the livelihood of millions of people. At the same time, as one of the poorest countries in the region, these forests are facing tremendous threats from illegal logging, agriculture expansion, and infrastructure development.

To help the Government of Laos effectively design and implement policies in line with their vision, the RAFT partnership has co-funded a gap assessment of forest governance in Laos. The assessment, for the first time, mapped the gaps in policy, capacity, and enforcement along the forest products value/supply chain in full, as a system. In collaboration with various national stakeholders, the RAFT partnership has contributed to the establishment of the National Steering Committee on model wood factories and wood processing. In supporting the organization of the World Wood Day Celebration, RAFT is able to garner political support for conserving forest as previous natural resources for Laos, and build momentum in public awareness of forest stewardship.

At the opening ceremony, HE. Phankham Viphavanh, Vice President of Lao PDR, sent to the country a powerful message: “Using forests, especially Non-Timber Forest Products as sources of food, traditional medicine, and also as the source of household income significantly contributes to eradication of poverty.” Working closely with the Government of Laos, RAFT partnership is paving the way for the country to better capitalize on its rich forest resources for socio-economic development, thereby generating financial incentives for forest stewardship.