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  • Wyss Academy

Our Activities in the Hub Southeast Asia (2024)

Location: At the Laos-Thailand border. More specifically in Sayaboury, Laos, and Nan, Thailand, which are neighboring provinces on the west bank of the Mekong River. This upland area of Southeast Asia, once remote, is now a frontier for resource extraction that threatens both biodiversity and the local culture.  


Inhabitants: The two provinces are home to approximately 900,000 people, of which ethnic minorities make up between 10 and 20%.  The population density is higher in Nan, with 40 people per km2, compared to only 26 per km2 in Sayaboury. Approximately 50% of the Lao population is under 25 years of age, whereas in Thailand only 20% falls into this age group.    


Biodiversity:  The area covers two ecoregions, namely ‘Northern Thailand-Laos moist deciduous forests’ (Ecoregion IM0139), and ‘Luang Prabang montane rainforests’ (Ecoregion IMO121)¹. These serving as home for a large number of endangered species. Larger animals, such as tigers, are locally extinct due to hunting and habitat loss. In Sayaboury Province, Laos, both wild and captive Asian elephants are still present.




  • The Hub Southeast Asia team is currently hosted by the Regional Centre for People and Forests (RECOFTC) at Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

  • In 2023, the co-design of incubators in and around the Nam Tien Protection Area in Sayaboury involved a wide range of stakeholders, including:  * Community representatives * Local government officials * Conservation and eco-tourism enterprises * School teachers and college lecturers * National policy makers and researchers * International experts in land management and agro-forestry


  • Studies completed in Laos since 2020 with the support of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), include: * Appraisal Report: ‘Towards sustainable futures for nature and people ‘ * Scoping Study: ‘The Wyss Academy Solutionscape in Nam Tien Provincial Protection Forest Area in Sayaboury Province’ * Stakeholder Analysis: in-depth interviews with key informants; results summarized in the report of the Scoping Study.    

  • Also completed by Swisscontact and CDE was an ‘Analysis of Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) Value Chains in Nam Tien’, based on data collected from villagers, traders and markets in the area.

  • Currently on-going (March 2024) is a household baseline study and social network analysis.

  • Planned for later in 2024 are studies of key indicators to be used in environmental monitoring across the solutionscape, including land use, biodiversity and water quality. 


  • The Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC), located at the heart of the Nam Tien Protection Area in Sayaboury Province, is developing innovative approaches to monitoring the elephant population and rewilding the offspring of captive elephants, in addition to developing a research-based business model.

  • A coalition of local government agencies under the leadership of the Provincial Governor is now committed to restoring forest cover in the Nam Tien Protection Area, lost due to monoculture farming previously backed by foreign investors.

  • A network of teachers in the vicinity of Nam Tien is actively contributing to Environmental Wellbeing in Schools, including educational activities both in the classroom and during visits to ECC, and improvements to community waste management.

  • Potential for sustainable commercialization of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is the subject of ongoing research, involving both national and international expertise, with the aim of replacing the income stream from environmentally destructive farming practices.

  • Across the border in Nan Province, the Trees4All project involves community groups restoring forest cover with the technical support of the Regional Centre for People and Forests (RECOFTC). 

The Nam Tien Reservoir, Sayaboury province, Lao PDR Photo Credit: Horst Weyerhäuser /Wyss Academy for Nature

The forest around the Nam Tien Reservoir (14 Nov 2023) Photo Credit: Horst Weyerhäuser /Wyss Academy for Nature

Local farmers preparing soil for soybean cultivation (11 Dec 2023) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature

Soybean farm (11 Dec 2023) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature

The mahout of ECC feeding the elephant (23 Jan 2024) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature

Class room activity in Non Savan primary school (Grade 2) (16 Feb 2024) Photo Credit: Mongkon Duangkhiew/Wyss Academy for Nature


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