Mirjam de Koning
Project director ‘Integrated Nature Conservation and
Sustainable Resource Management in the Hin Nam No Region’
Due to the successful efforts over the last year, we now have an effective team of about 230 people managing the Hin Nam No National Protected Area.
On 27 January 2015, the Hin Nam No co-management team conducted the yearly management effectiveness self–assessment, based on a method developed by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. The members of the team divided into three different groups (Provincial and District Offices of Natural Resources and Environment as well as advisors) to make their self-assessments. Questions where a different score between the groups occurred were discussed in detail in a plenary meeting until all participants agreed on the final score. In 2014, the total score for Hin Nam No was 62% which is slightly higher than Virachey National Park in Cambodia (55.6%) but lower as Khao Yai National Park in Thailand (87.2%). All scores below 65% are considered as below average performance. In 2015, the total score for Hin Nam No is 71% which shows an increase of management effectiveness of 9% in one year. The areas scoring higher in 2015 compared to 2014 are:
- Capacity development of staff (1,075 training days) and villagers (2,090 training days) in 41 of the 46 identified priority needs
- Availability of regular local subsidy budget as operational budget (1,244,395,500 LAK)
- Participatory zonation of the Hin Nam No in Controlled Use Zone and Total Protected Zone
- Organisational development of the co-management system into working units and areas
- Increase in relevant research through national, regional and international researchers assisted by villagers
- Improved availability and maintenance of equipment
- Improved cooperation between park managers and neighbours including tourism operators
- Development of a monitoring and evaluation system
- Development of tourism products, facilities and services
- Introduction and piloting of a park entrance fee
- Promotion and dissemination of PR materials
- Real benefit sharing with local communities (51,250,000 LAK for village rangers)
These improvements were possible thanks to the efforts of the nine PONRE/DONRE government staff, 19 government volunteers, the eight project advisors, 66 Village Co-Management members, 19 Village Cluster Co-Management members, 77 village rangers, 23 village eco-tourism service providers and other cooperating partners such as the District Governor’s office, the National University of Laos, Agro-Forestry Consultant and Enterprise Development Consultants.
Developing and implementing an effective and equitable management system takes time thus it is an ambitious and valuable process for all stakeholders involved. The official authorities positively recognised the positive outcome on more effective management of Hin Nam No. Therefore, Hin Nam No acts as a pilot which can later be adapted to other protected areas in Lao PDR.
This pilot project of shared governance (or so-called co-management) of a protected area such as Hin Nam No hopefully will be even more convincing in the coming years. As most protected areas have villages located inside and villages depending on the protected area, the shared governance model is the most cost effective method, while being at the same time participatory and benefit sharing.
Hopefully, the key decision makers will continue to support this pilot co-management process by officially approving and recognising the 19 elected Village Co-management Committees, the five Village Cluster Co-management Committees as well as the draft co-management regulations. This is especially important as in two areas, Hin Nam No scored to be less effective than the previous year:
- Threats from outside in which adjacent land and water use planning does not take the long term needs of Hin Nam No into account
- Major weaknesses in regulations for controlling land use and activities in Hin Nam No
Another major weakness remains that there is no secure budget for Hin Nam No and so far the management is wholly reliant on outside funding. Areas where there is further scope for improvement are boundary delineation and demarcation in areas that are still unclear, involvement of the local people in operational planning and reporting and more strategic alliances and partnerships to gain more support from other stakeholders. Major strengths of Hin Nam No are the design of the protected area which helps to achieve the objectives, maintains ecological processes and is appropriate for species and habitat conservation.
Hin Nam No provides excellent environmental services all year long, as the area prevents most natural catastrophic events and is still free from encroachment of agriculture, mining, housing and industry. Luckily, Hin Nam No is protecting itself as there are limited alternative land uses due to ruggedness of the area. But most important is the contribution of the local people which are connected to Hin Nam No and very eager to be part of its conservation, especially with an increased pressure from outside.
All in all, Hin Nam No is a true natural heritage of Laos. Let us all contribute to give it the regional recognition of an ASEAN Heritage Park and the global recognition of a natural World Heritage Site.