Former Laboratory of Tropical Crops and Environment, Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University | Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment | Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Kyushu University
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) is economically a Least Developed Country in Southeast Asia and characterized by rich natural resources and biodiversity. A majority of the rural population relies on natural resources, particularly non timber forest products (NTFPs). NTFPs contribute significantly to rural livelihoods for both subsistence and cash incomes. They not only support the well–being and food security of local communities, but also contribute to national revenues. Thus, the demand for NTFPs from both local communities and the business sectors is very high. However, harvests of some commercial NTFPs species have decreased due to overharvesting. Many NTFP policies have been developed over the course of four decades, but there has been little analysis of the stages of government attempts to manage these resources. The objectives of this study are to identify the characteristics of the regulatory framework that has evolved for NTFPs in Laos over the past four decades, and to understand how the government has attempted to manage their use by local communities and the business sector. This study involved an extensive literature review of NTFP–related policies and relevant documents. It found that the development of NTFP policies in Laos can be divided into four periods, with the third period (1996 to 2006) being the most important one for the creation of many aspects of the regulatory framework, including legislation on NTFP utilization rights and village forest rights. During the fourth period, the government also tried to control commercial use of NTFPs by imposing obligations on the business sector and conserving the most valuable NTFPs. The study concludes that the current regulatory framework has the potential to secure NTFP resources, although as it is currently being implemented, illegal harvesting of NTFPs still occurs. Therefore, further improvements are still needed in the implementation of the NTFP regulatory framework.