After more than 10 years working in Lao PDR, Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) partners and stakeholders gathered in Vientiane on 16th November 2018, to reflect on the achievements and results of the RAFT partnership and discuss ways forward to address the remaining challenges in improving the forestry sector and promoting good forest governance in Lao PDR.

Chaired by Mr. Manohack Rasachack, Director General of the Department of Industry and Handicrafts under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the event highlighted the success of the RAFT partnership and the work that has been jointly implemented by WWF, RECOFTC, IGES/ Faculty of Forestry, the National University of Laos, and TFT, in collaboration with a wide range of government agencies, industries, communities, and research partners.

“The implementation of the RAFT Program is coherent with the Prime Minister’s Order no.15/PM, dated 13 May 2016, which aims to improve the application of Forest and Trade policy and regulations, and ultimately, strengthen the control and inspection of wood harvesting, transportation and trade. As a result of partners’ joint efforts, the cutting rate of timber has notably decreased,”said Mr. Rasachak during his opening remarks.

With the support of the United States and the Australian Governments, the RAFT program has been invested in working towards the achievement of the Government’s ambitious target set in the Forestry Strategy 2020 to restore the forest cover rate to 70% by 2020.

RAFT’s Major Achievements in Lao PDR:

  • A Forest Sector Gap Analysis  led by WWF-Laos helped identify current gaps and provide targeted strategies and solutions to strengthen the forestry and trade sectors in Lao PDR. It also established an active Knowledge Platform to bring the Lao forestry stakeholders together to ensure collaboration in planning, implementation, lessons sharing, and generating solutions.
  • A National Steering Committee chaired by the Vice-Minister of Industry and Commerce, was established in 2017 to support capacity building of the wood industry and inter-ministerial coordination at the central and local levels.
  • Relationships and exchanges among wood products manufacturers in Lao PDR and buyers in China, Indonesia and Japan have been strengthened, and the promotion of Lao products both in showrooms in Tokyo and during World Wood Day celebrations in Vientiane has been encouraged.
  • Teak farmers in Bokeo and Luang Prabang have been supported in the development of sustainable smallholder teak plantations, including land registration, technical assistance, value-added processing, and market links. These have brought to an increase of tangible financial benefits and livelihood improvements.

Despite these achievements, challenges remain. Participants from Luang Prabang and Bokeo shared their difficulty in getting their plantations registered, understanding different interpretations of the law, and accessing  sustainable financing mechanisms. One representative from a wood processing factory raised the issue of the imbalances that exist between market demand and supply, and the high expectations from developed markets such as Japan.

Recommendations were made for the wood processing industry to create a revolving fund that could be used to stabilize the price of raw materials and invest in improving the quality of the domestic supply. It was also agreed to involve the Ministry of Finance and commercial banks in future stakeholder meetings.

RAFT partners and the Australian Government, represented by Jane Chandler, Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Laos, encouraged participants to carry forward the progress made in these ten years and sustain their commitment to work together towards a shared common goal – to build an inclusive and sustainable forestry sector and promote good forest governance in Lao PDR.

RAFT in the Vientiane Times