Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources
(ກຸ່ມເຮັດວຽກກ່ຽ່ວກັບບັນຫາການນຳໃຊ້ທີ່ດິນ) ແນ່ໃສ່ສົ່ງເສີ່ມ ຄວາມເຂົ້າໃຈ ແລະຄວາມຮູ້ທ່ວງທັນ ໃນດ້ານ ເສດຖະກິດສັງຄົມ ສິງແວດລອມ ທີ່ກ່ຽວຂອງກັບການນຳໃຊ້ເນື້ອທີ່ດິນ ໃນໂຄງການ ຕ່າງໆ, ໂດຍການເກັບກຳ ແລະ ແຜ່ກະຈາຍ ຂໍ້ມູນ ຂ່າວສານ, ການຊຸກຍູ້ການສົນທະນາປຶກສາຫາລື ແລະ ການຄົ້ນຄວ້າວິໃຈ

No concessions without consent, working group says

Vientiane Times, 4 November 2014
The national land regulations, including the National Land Policy and Land Law must be explicit in regulating and how and when land can be expropriated and it should be only made possible for public purposes.
 The statement was one of the key messages the Land Sub-sector Working Group (LSSWG) conveyed to the National Resources and Environment Sector Working Group (NRESWG) during preparations for the upcoming Round Table Implementation Meeting to be held in Vientiane this month.
The message was disseminated at the sector working group held yesterday in Vientiane, where Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Ms Bounkham Vorachit, Country Manager of the World Bank Ms Sally Birmingham and Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Laos Michael Grau were in attendance. The LSSWG gave the recommendation concerning the land tenure security for Lao citizens and protection of the investments made in the country.
 Land issues have been longstanding in Laos for many years, while the National Land Policy which the government has been drafting for years was not approved despite having been brought for discussion at sector working group meetings and tabled at the National Assembly on numerous occasions.
Land concessions and the compensation paid to those who lose their land were the most frequently raised land issues with the public expressing its opinion that compensation should be paid at market rates.
 As the result of its work presented at the meeting held on October 14, the land issues sub-sector working group strongly recommended that legislation must make clear that land ownership or land use rights can only be revoked with the free, prior, and informed consent of the affected land rights holders.
 However, an exemption will be made for land resumptions that directly and primarily benefit the general public and provided that the affected parties receive, full, fair, and prior compensation.In addition, this must be applied to both individually and communally held land, be it land under customary ownership or with a formal title.
 Private purpose land use transfers on communal lands shall only be implemented if agreed upon by consent of a minimum of two-thirds (but ideally 80 percent) majority of all affected land use rights holders.
 The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been assigned as the government’s secretariat on natural resources and the environment and thereby oversees the NRESWG under the government round table meeting process. At the meeting yesterday, NRESWG joined with development partners to review the draft vision towards 2030 for the natural resources and environment sector and the plan for the period from 2016 to 2020 before submitting them to the round table process and incorporation into the National Socio-Economic Plan for the next five years.

*Family incomes fail to keep pace with economic growth*

Vientiane Times, 25 Oct 2014

Despite annual economic growth of 8 percent over the past four years, the average household income does not reflect this growth, senior government officials and economists say.

A senior economist, Dr Leeber Leebuapao, told Vientiane Times on Friday that strong economic growth does not necessarily translate into higher incomes for all sectors of society. This was because economic growth measures all sectors of the economy whereas individuals rely on different sectors of the economy which are growing at different rates. For instance, even though agriculture still accounts for over 70 percent of the nation’s workforce the sector itself is only growing at 3 percent annually.

*MONRE: 10 projects to be cancelled*

Vientiane Times, 24 Oct 2014

Officials are now considering cancelling contracts on 10 projects due to failure in following national resource and environmental regulations.

The Ministry of National Resources and Environment (MONRE) told the media at a government meeting press conference yesterday that after inspecting various projects relating to their jurisdiction, the department found 10 projects were breaking regulations and the law. As a result, the ministry forwarded this information to the Ministry of Planning and Investment in order to cancel the contracts.
Deputy Minister of the National Resource and Environment Ms Bounkham Vorachit said they cooperated with other involved ministries to investigate various projects in provinces across the country.

*Attapeu folk continue to unearth alabaster despite ban*

Vientiane Times, 23 Oct 2014

The high sale price of alabaster has brought local people flocking to Phoukanghong Mountain in Attapeu province, where they have been digging up blocks of the mineral to sell, despite a government ban on its removal. Locals told Vientiane Times yesterday that villagers were continuing to remove the rocks illegally and with great enthusiasm, as if celebrating a festival.

*Laos enters negotiation on EU FLEGT *

Vientiane Times, 23 Oct 2014

Assurance of the legality of Lao timber is a step closer after negotiations with the European Union (EU) regarding forestry law enforcement, governance and trade commenced.  The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced the progress on the issue yesterday in Vientiane.

The Forestry Department Director General, Mr Thongphat Vongmany spoke at a press conference during the 4th Sub-Regional Training Workshop on Timber Legality Assurance in Vientiane, which runs from October 22-24. He said the Lao side still has several issues requiring discussion with the EU FLEGT and Asean nations attending the training workshop. “Are we ready to enter the EU FLEGT? The answer is not yet, due to the fact we still need more discussion on this,” he said.

*Rubber price crash forces farmers to sell farms*

Vientiane Times, 21 Oct 2014

Some Luang Namtha provincial rubber growers have decided to sell their plantations after the price of rubber has gone way down. Others have destroyed their plantations and switched to growing other commercial crops such as bananas and sugarcane, the provincial domestic trade section head, Mr Sawaeng Sivilay, told Vientiane Times yesterday. The huge drop in the rubber price this year has discouraged farmers in the province from growing the tree, he said. Some farmers have even chosen to sell the land on which they have planted the rubber trees, asking about 20 million kip a hectare when the trees are between two and four years old and around 30 million kip a hectare when the trees are nearly ready to tap, Mr Sawaeng reported.
Many growers are not expected to continue with this business despite the general understanding that the price will go up again in the next few years.
The raw rubber price in the province had risen as high as 15,000 kip/kg in 2010 but by the beginning of this year it had halved to 7,000-8,000 kip/kg and is now only just over 4,000 kip/kg. About 60 percent of rubber growers are keeping their plantations and stockpiling the rubber waiting for the price to go up again but 40 percent have had to sell because they can’t survive that long without income.
The drop in price here simply reflects the situation in the world market, according to Mr Sawaeng. The management of rubber production and pricing is limited as farmers can only sell to four buying companies in the province because they are legal investors approved by the government. Most of the rubber gets exported to China but the Chinese government has limited its import quota to 2,000 tonnes per year or 500 tonnes a company, Mr Sawaeng said. The quota has been imposed because the Chinese government wants to protect their own local rubber growers, he added.
Lao government representatives, in particular those from the provincial Department of Industry and Commerce, have approached the Chinese authorities with a proposal to raise the quota of the rubber goods but no answer has yet been forthcoming. To help solve the problem, the department last year encouraged rubber growers to set up a cooperative for price negotiation and to help each other get through the price crisis, Mr Sawaeng said. But some of the group’s members have had to sell their rubber at the very low price as they don’t have any other choice.
Luang Namtha, one of the northern provinces in Laos, contains the largest rubber plantations in the country with the majority of the investors being Chinese companies. The province has about 30,000 ha of rubber.
In recent years the product has helped improve the living conditions of local families working with the companies and selling their produce as well as contributing to provincial economic development and poverty reduction.

*Local authorities: don’t encroach on forest areas*

Vientiane Times, 20 Oct 2014

Vientiane province officials have cautioned people living near forest conservation areas not to encroach on them to raise livestock and upland rice. “In the zones of forest conservation we have banned the encroachment, however many places are deforested,” Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Department in Vientiane province Mr Sethxay Vilayphay told Vientiane Times last Thursday.

*Rising costs, market access issues depriving farmers*

Vientiane Times, 20 Oct 2014

The rising cost of agricultural inputs, natural disasters due to climate change and the lack of access to markets have posed great challenges for family and smallholder farmers in Laos as they strive to make a living, officials and experts have agreed. Speaking at a ceremony last week in Xieng Khuang province to mark the World Food Day 2014, representatives of the government and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shared the common concerns about the challenges faced by farmers in Laos. High-level representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Xieng Khuang province and the FAO were present to celebrate the event, which this year was dedicated to the ‘Farming Family’, according to the a press release from the FAO.

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