Contributing to protecting the breathtaking nature of Lao PDR has been a truly rewarding experience for me. Among green landscapes and picturesque roads, visiting fields and communities, my days abound with energy. Together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and with support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is conserving ecosystems like the dry dipterocarp forests, a type of forest that are recognized as being of national and global importance. I am a UN Volunteer Monitoring and Evaluation Officer from Kenya, serving with UNDP in Lao PDR. This is South-South collaboration and capacity-building in action. I invite you to travel with me on a monitoring mission and experience the beauty of Lao PDR.
It’s Thursday morning and I have landed in Savannakhet in the south of Laos, on a monitoring mission for our project.The project I work for, SAFE Ecosystems project, targets the reforestation of 1,111 hectares of land, contributing to Lao PDR's target to achieve 70 per cent forest cover by 2020. By the end of 2018, we will have achieved at least 25 per cent of this target in partnership with local communities who live in and around the forested areas. I and the project team work with villagers and local government officials to monitor the growth and survival of the trees as a key step in the reforestation process.
Today, we are organizing a project meeting, where I am reporting on how the project is achieving its goals.
In the afternoon, we are launching a Dry Dipterocarp Forest Centre, a new biodiversity and visitor centre. Monks are invited to conduct a traditional "Baci" ceremony to bless the new construction site. The Centre will be a home for livelihood activities for the local communities, as well as a visitor centre and ecotourism hub.
Next, we are visiting the village of Ban Xang, where we are helping local villagers to start their ecotourism businesses. Lake Xang, for examples, is a nesting area for bird species, and is a perfect place for birdwatchers.
Then I meet local volunteer rangers who have dedicated their life to conserve the Ong Mang Wildlife Sanctuary. Being a volunteer myself, I admire their work and contributions towards protecting forests. We had a good time exchanging our opinions on what it means to be a volunteer... As you can see, we are happy about what we are doing.
Night is starting to fall as I bid farewell to the volunteers and community members I met during this trip. On the way, I observe the beautiful sunset and feel grateful for the opportunity to meet such marvelous people and learn from them. I am truly happy when I see that the knowledge and experience that I brought from Kenya makes lives of Lao people better.
This article was also posted on Exposure. Text by Norah Ngeny and Aijamal Duishebaeva. Photos taken by Lou Sensouphone.