About us

About us

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic came into existence in 1975, with the introduction of a socialist, one-party system which dismantled the legal basis for land ownership and land use rights established under the previous, French-influenced regime. However, a new formal framework has yet to be put in place, making land rights one of the most contentious issues in Lao PDR today.

Fast Facts

6,205,000 (2008)

Land area
23,080 hectares (ha)

Forest area

15,751 ha (2010)

Annual Change Rate   
-78 ha = 0.5% (2000-2010)

Carbon stock in living biomass    
1,133,000 tons (2000)

1,074,000 tons (2010)

Forest under Community Forestry
8,200,000 ha (2010)

Forest Management Regimes    
Village forestry and community-based forestry

State of the World's Forests 2011, FAO;
Forest Tenure in Asia: Status and Trends, RECOFTC 2011

Nearly 70% of the country’s population live in rural areas, and the high levels of poverty – a third of the population lives below the poverty line – imply a significant reliance on forests and natural resources for subsistence as more than 80% of villages have forestland or are adjacent to forest areas. According to a 2011 report, there were 783,000 farm households in the country of which 209,000 live in upland villages and 188,000 live in villages in plateau areas. Some 69% of farm households depend on state forestland for fuel wood and non-timber forest products with some 44,000 households saying they relied primarily on forest resources for subsistence.

Please click here for a timeline of key forest legislations in Laos.

Community Forestry in Laos

With unchecked exploitation in the 1980s, primarily from nine state enterprises resulting in high rates of deforestation (each was given between 200,000 to 300,000 acres), the government tried to redress the situation at the First National Forestry Conference in 1989, where it proposed a new forest policy for sustainable forest management, in which it officially recognized the need for community involvement.

The Land Use Planning and Land Allocation Policy, recognized the rights of local people to use and manage natural resources, encouraged their participation in the management, planning and protection of the forest. Since 2007, the government has re-classified forest areas into three categories: production, protection and conservation forests. The new forest law highlights the government policy to encourage local participation in forest management in all aspects with the aim of restoring 70% of the nation’s forests. While weak governance structures are a challenge, recent moves by the government to empower village forestry offer encouragement for the future.

Ownership and User Rights to Natural Resources

In compliance with its socialist policies, Lao PDR only allows user rights over land, forest, and water resources. With regard to land ownership, the Land Law (2003) stipulates that land in Lao PDR is under the ownership of the national community as prescribed in Article 17 of the Constitution in which the State is charged with the centralized and uniform management [of land] throughout the country and with the allocation of land to individuals, families and economic organizations for use, lease or concession. As with China, tree rights are accorded to individuals and organizations which plant or tend them. For Village Forests, the focus of forest management has been on sustainable use of NTFPs including wildlife, fuel-wood, and construction materials, but in most cases, villages only have general management rules.

Lao PDR has been selected as one of the pioneers for implementing REDD+ which together with Payment for Environmental Services is aimed at providing an equitable share of benefits for villagers under new global initiatives for climate change. 

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Our work in Laos