September 15, 2023 — A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between AFoCO and the Department of Forestry in Lao PDR. This significant step marks the official launch of the project titled “Capacity Building on Enhancing Resilience to Forest Fire, and Local Livelihood and Market Linkages (AFoCO/032/2022).” This endeavor, which is set to span from November 2023 to October 2027, comes as a response to the growing need to combat forest fires effectively and support local livelihoods.
The signing ceremony was attended by Mr. Sousath Sayakoummane, Director General of the Department of Forestry, and Dr. Thatsaka Saphangthong, Director General of the Department of Planning and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry from the Lao PDR side. From the AFoCO Secretariat, Mr. Sunpil Jin, Vice Executive Director, delivered his remark. Dr. HoJoon Youn, Regional Project Manager, and Dr. Junghwan Park, Senior Project Manager also attended the ceremony online. Additionally, key representatives from both the Department of Forestry of Lao PDR and AFoCO graced the occasion, making it a gathering of esteemed professionals.
The core focus of this four-year venture is on enhancing forest fire resilience and creating market linkages that benefit local communities. With its implementation, this project aims to address the annual threat of forest fires, which severely affect Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam during the dry seasons from January to April. In 2021 alone, Lao PDR was impacted by forest fires that devoured 210 hectares of land. These incidents are more common in the northern regions, emphasizing the need for preemptive measures.
As part of this project, AFoCO and Lao PDR plan to deploy an innovative early detection system that includes 24-hour surveillance towers equipped with CCTVs. This network will be complemented by mobile applications enabling residents to report potential fires swiftly. A comprehensive monitoring center is also on the horizon, allowing for the rapid dispatch of firefighting teams furnished with the necessary equipment when fires break out.
In addition to fire resilience, the project aims to support local communities whose livelihoods are frequently disrupted by these forest fires. This will involve the establishment of product collection hubs and their connection with small markets. Experiential learning programs will further empower these communities, fostering sustainable local development.
Leveraging this experience, AFoCO and the Department of Forestry in Lao PDR are determined to lay the groundwork for effective wildfire management, raising awareness, and improving local livelihoods. The success of this initiative is anticipated to extend beyond project completion, ensuring a more resilient future against forest fires.
The signing of this MOU symbolizes a strong partnership between AFoCO and Lao PDR in addressing critical environmental challenges and supporting the well-being of local communities.
Contributed by Ms. YoungJu HAN, Project Management Coordinator