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  • Wyss Academy

A greener future

For the first time in more than three years, rural school children in a remote part of Laos were able to visit the internationally acclaimed Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) that is located just a few kilometers from where they live.

The young students from Non Sawan primary school visiting ECC (23 Jan 2024) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) had been unable to accept visitors. The financial impact of the closure forced staff of the Centre to focus on ensuring the health and safety of the population of 30 elephants that are at home in the Nam Tien Protection Area. Now, with the support of the Wyss Academy, ECC is stepping up its engagement with the communities. This plays a crucial role in the fate of the forest on which the elephants depend.  


The cliché 'the future belongs to the children' is certainly true in Laos, where over 50% of the population is under the age of 25. As in other parts of the world, the income used by rural people to build better houses and send their children to school is often generated at the expense of the natural environment. Resulting in forests being destroyed, rivers polluted, and soils exhausted. As a result, the next generation of farmers in Laos cannot follow the same path as their parents. Many may decide to leave their villages, but those who stay will need to create a different future for themselves. A greener future.


Rural schools are both a seedbed for cultivating the knowledge and attitudes that will shape the lives of the next generation of farmers, and a hub for community engagement. In Sayaboury Province, in the villages closest to the Nam Tien Protection Area, a network of teachers is receiving support from the Wyss Academy to promote Environmental Wellbeing in their Schools. This includes environmental educational activities both in the classroom and during visits to ECC, and improvements to community waste management. 

Environmental Wellbeing is not something that can be achieved overnight. Creating a balanced and sustainable interaction between human activities and the natural world requires persistent efforts at all levels of society. When young children are guided through the forest and encounter the elephants that inhabit it, observing their eating habits, bathing rituals, and nurturing behaviors towards their young, it fosters an inspiring and unforgettable experience. It is an encounter between two species that must become better partners on that journey towards a greener future.

Elephants are drinking water from the Nam Tien Reservoir (23 Jan 2024) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature


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