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  • Wyss Academy

Finding value in the forest (Nam Thien, Laos)

Nam Thien is among 200 provincial and district-level protected areas in Laos. These zones and forest frontiers hold significant potential for nature conservation, but also face substantial challenges and pressure. Provincial and district authorities tasked with protecting these zones lack the capacity, resources, and enforcement power to protect and manage them sustainably. These areas are often perceived as free spaces, where uncontrolled agricultural practices can endanger both ecosystems and local livelihoods. One potential answer to this problem is to enhance the value of such areas through economic development, by establishing them as a source of new products that do not rely on deforestation: so-called non-timber forest products (NTFP).

©Dr. Jiang Hongbo, Kunming Institute of Botany

To document and share local and scientific knowledge about NTFPs, starting in July 2022, the Wyss Academy for Nature co-developed the Pha Khao Lao online platform with local partners. It now includes information on the biology, distribution, and possible uses of over 1,400 native species. This ensures the preservation and sharing of critical knowledge and provides a foundation for the development of NTFP value chains. Together with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, Switzerland, we have also established a new partnership with Swisscontact and identified promising NTFP production chains for further development in 2024.


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