Laos (Lao PDR) is a culturally diverse country globally renowned for its unique biodiversity and much sought after natural resources. The Mekong River carves a path down its length. Over 40 percent of the country is swathed by forest. Home to the region's largest population of Asian elephants and the last wild populations of Mekong giant catfish - it is brimming with opportunity and life.


Why important?

Around 49 ethnic tribes and four language families call Laos home. The way these cultures relate to nature is often coloured by beliefs and traditions that have been practiced for centuries. Eighty percent of Lao’s 5.9 million people, over half of which is aged under 20 years, live in rural areas deriving a living from natural resources mainly in the form of fisheries, agriculture, livestock rearing, wildlife hunting and non-timber forest product harvest, such as, honey or rattan.

Unprecedented economic development is underway within Laos and across the Greater Mekong. This development is designed to strengthen regional transportation, telecommunications, energy production and usage, and cross-border trade. Within Laos this is driving the construction of major roads and hydropower dams and attracting huge foreign investment in Lao's relative abundance of mineral, land and forest resources. If this economic development is not planned and managed in a sustainable way, it will exhaust the natural resources that supply local and national economies, and provide habitat to some of the world’s rarest creatures, causing irreversible biodiversity loss.

Today, rural communities in Laos earn almost half of their income from non-timber forest product harvesting and selling e.g Mr Kensy Milatit - a villager from Thaveng Village, Khamkeut District, Bolikhamxay Province - earned 250-300USD last year from weaving the rattan products during his paddy-field-breaking time.

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  •  / ©: WWF
  •  / ©: WWF

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