Cultural Identity, Network Action, and Customary Law
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The CHESH-Lao Program” is the name given to the activities in Laos of the Centre for Human Ecology Studies of Highlands (CHESH). CHESH is an independent Science and Technology Association (STO) registered in Vi etnam with the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA). It was founded in 1999 by the Vietnamese NGO, Towards Ethnic Women (TEW), to carry out research on the traditional natural resource management practices of indigenous ethnic minority peoples in the highland areas of the Mekong region of Southeast Asia. Its founder, TEW, had itself been working very closely with highland ethnic minority peoples in Vietnam, supporting village-level development projects, since 1994. In its work, TEW had developed strong critique of conventional development programmes, such as those going under the names of ‘poverty alleviation’, ‘hunger eradication’ and ‘capacity building’. Such programmes they saw as imposing outsiders’ views minority peoples’ lives. They were particularly critical of the failure of development agencies, both domestic and foreign, to listen to and learn from minority peoples. They saw this failure as resulting in interventions that were destructive of the ecological balance and close spiritual relations that minority communities had with their natural environment. In its own work, in the areas of land rights and gender relations, TEW treated ethnic minority peoples as experts in human ecology and sustainable resource management. TEW staff lived with ethnic minority communities for months at a time to learn their languages and cultures and the spiritual values behind their ways of managing natural resources. It was to research these matters more thoroughly that TEW established CHESH, in the hope that its research results would be used to improve government policies and the lives of ethnic minority peoples in the highland regions (Vandenhende: 11)

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    Cultural Identity, Network Action, and Customary Law Cultural Identity, Network Action, and Customary Law Document Transcript

    • 2012Cultural Identity, Network Action, and Customary Law Editor: Dr. Keith Barber CENTER FOR HUMAN ECOLOGY STUDIES OF HIGHLANDS - CHESH CHESH Lao Program (1999-2009)
    • ContentsINTRODUCTION.........................................4PROGRAM OF COOPERATION BETWEENCHESH AND LAOGOVERNMENT.....................6PHASE ONE: JANUARY 2000-JUNE 2002Community Development Based on CulturalIdentity.......................................................... 7 Long Lan ................................................... 7 Xieng Da ................................................... 9 Nam Kha ................................................. 12 Other activities ........................................ 13 Assessment .............................................. 15PHASE TWO: JANUARY 2003-DECEMBER 2005 Key-farmer networks ............................... 16 Traditional culture ................................... 17 Household and community economic development ............................................ 17 Infrastructure developments ..................... 19 Professional training ................................ 20 Land allocation ........................................ 20 Outcome .................................................. 25PHASE THREE: 2006-2009Strengthening the Network of Customary Lawin Natural Research Management ................ 27 Herbal medicine ...................................... 28 Textile handicraft .................................... 30 Ecological farming .................................. 31 Economic and Community Developments in Xieng Da and Nam Kha ........................... 33 Strengthening the network on savings and credit ....................................................... 34 Forest protection ...................................... 34The Widening Context................................. 40REFERENCES............................................ 432|Page
    • Figure 17: Villagers borrow loan from theFigure 1: The Khmu house in Nam Kha community development fund in Nam Kha forvillage, Nam Bac Distrit, Luang Prabang, investment in production (CHESH Lao, 2006)Laos (CHESH Laos 2001) ............................. 4 ................................................................... 33Figure 2: Typical Lao Lum village in Luang Figure 18: Community meeting in Long LanPrabang, Laos ............................................... 5 for setting up a regulation in forest protectionFigure 3: Hmong girl in Long Lan village, (CHESH Lao, 2007) .................................... 35Luang Prabang district, Luang Prabang, Laos Figure 19: Women and Children in Long Lan(CHESH Laos - 2005) ................................... 7 village (CHESH Lao, 2006) ........................ 40Figure 4: Long Lan Council of Elders in the Figure 20: The Land Spirit of Laos (CHESHHmong Traditional Flut Performance Lao, 2004) .................................................. 41(CHESH Laos 2007) ...................................... 8Figure 5: ‘Ton Phu- Spiritual Tree, andBuddha Statue in the Xieng Da Pagoga(CHESH Laos 2005) .................................... 10Figure 6: A Lao Lum women in Xieng Da isspinning (CHESH Lao 2005) ....................... 12Figure 7: Khmu people in Nam Kha (CHESHLao, 2005) ................................................... 13Figure 8: Garlic Harvesting in Nam Kha(CHESH Lao, 2006) .................................... 14Figure 9: Key farmer network (CHESH Lao –2005)........................................................... 16Figure 10: A traditional dance of Hmong inLong Lan (CHESH Lao, 2007)..................... 17Figure 11: Ecological corn farm of Mr XomLit in Xieng Da (CHESH Lao, 2006)............ 18Figure 12: Ceremony for land use rightcertificate granting (CHESH Lao, 2005) ...... 22Figure 13: "Con Performance of the Hmongin the New Year (CHESH Lao, 2007) ........... 25Figure 14: Sharing herbal knowledge amonghealers (CHESH Lao, 2008) ........................ 28Figure 15: Preparing threads for natural dye(CHESH Lao, 2007) .................................... 30Figure 16: Havesting native vegetables inLong Lan (CHESH Lao, 2008)..................... 323|Page
    • INTRODUCTION“ The CHESH-Lao Program” is the name given to the activities in Laos of the Centre for Human EcologyStudies of Highlands (CHESH). CHESH isan independent Science and TechnologyAssociation (STO) registered in Vi etnamwith the Vietnam Union of Science andTechnology Associations (VUSTA). It wasfounded in 1999 by the Vietnamese NGO,Towards Ethnic Women (TEW), to carryout research on the traditional naturalresource management practices of Figure 1: The Khmu house in Nam Kha village, Nam Bac Distrit, Luangindigenous ethnic minority peoples in the Prabang, Laos (CHESH Laos 2001)highland areas of the Mekong region of research these matters more thoroughlySoutheast Asia. Its founder, TEW, had that TEW established CHESH, in the hopeitself been working very closely with that its research results would be used tohighland ethnic minority peoples in improve government policies and the livesVietnam, supporting village-level of ethnic minority peoples in the highlanddevelopment projects, since 1994. In its regions (Vandenhende: 11)work, TEW had developed strong critiqueof conventional development programmes, Meanwhile, in Laos, the Ministry ofsuch as those going under the names of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) had‘poverty alleviation’, ‘hunger eradication’ recently established a Project for Ruraland ‘capacity building’. Such programmes Development of Focus Areas (PRDFA) tothey saw as imposing outsiders’ views oversee rural development in selectedminority peoples’ lives. They were mountainous and border regions whereparticularly critical of the failure of most of the ethnic minority people in Laosdevelopment agencies, both domestic and lived. As a new programme, PRDFA wasforeign, to listen to and learn from looking for direction, and took up theminority peoples. They saw this failure as suggestion of a Vietnamese colleague thatresulting in interventions that were they might learn something from thedestructive of the ecological balance and experience of TEW in Vietnam.close spiritual relations that minority Accordingly, in October 1999, a group ofcommunities had with their natural senior TEW staff were invited to Vientianeenvironment. In its own work, in the areas for talks with PRDFA officials where itof land rights and gender relations, TEW was agreed that the two organizationstreated ethnic minority peoples as experts would undertake a ‘Program ofin human ecology and sustainable resource Cooperation’ aimed at developing themanagement. TEW staff lived with ethnic skills of PRDFA staff for working amongminority communities for months at a time highland indigenous ethnic minorityto learn their languages and cultures and communities. For TEW, the programmethe spiritual values behind their ways of offered the opportunity for them to extendmanaging natural resources. It was to the research activities of the newly4|Page
    • developed CHESH into Laos, a country minority farmers capable of takingwhere the traditional values and practices leadership roles in their communities. Theof indigenous ethnic minority communities problems of ‘in-confidence’ and ‘no-were considered to be still well ownership’ could then be tackled bymaintained. It was also seen as an lobbying for state recognition ofopportunity to build a ‘key-farmer community land rights and respect fornetwork’ in Laos to link up with the indigenous knowledge as a foundation forexisting ‘key-farmer network’ in Vietnam, sustainable natural resource managementthe result of TEW’s earlier work. and community development. Key farmer networks were established first at the‘Key-farmer networks’ were a central village level on the basis of sharedfeature of TEW’s strategy for improving interests among farmers in traditionalthe conditions of ethnic minority practices related to natural resourcecommunities in Vietnam. As elsewhere in management such as herbal medicine,the Mekong region, ethnic minorities in women’s textile handicraft production,Vietnam made up the poorest sections of ecological farming, customary law, andthe population. In TEW’s analysis, the forest protection. The networks were thencause of this poverty was a combination of extended to the regional and inter-ethnicisolation, in-confidence and no-ownership. level by creating opportunities for farmers‘Isolation’was from other ethnic groups from different ethnic groups and differentand from the centers of power where parts of the country to meet and exchangedecisions affecting the lives of ethnic their ideas and knowledge. In this wayminorities are made. This was seen as TEW sought to strengthen the capacity ofleading to ‘in-confidence’, particularly in ethnic minority farmers throughout therelation to the formal political system region to withstand state and marketwhere ethnic minorities are officially pressures to abandon their traditionallooked down upon as ‘backward’ and resources and cultural practices. It was‘superstitious’. Isolation and in-confidence with this background of philosophy andtogether led to ‘no-ownership’ (or loss of practice that CHESH entered into acontrol) of both land and cultureas minority peoples were eitherforcefully removed from theirtraditional territories by statesponsored resettlement programsor lost their land to statesponsored land appropriations.Given the close associationbetween land and culture inhighland ethnic minoritycommunities (expressed in termsof spiritual relations),resettlement or landdispossession led to cultural lossas well. TEW’s ‘key farmernetwork’ strategy was aimed ataddressing the problems ofisolation by building strong inter-ethnic regional networks of ‘keyfarmers’ - knowledgeable,innovative, and forceful ethnic Figure 2: Typical Lao Lum village in Luang Prabang, Laos (CHESH Laos 2005)5|Page
    • PROGRAM OF COOPERATION BETWEEN CHESH AND LAO GOVERNMENT 1999-2000Program of Cooperation with the Lao representatives of Xieng Da and Long Langovernment in 1999. villages. This event was designed by CHESH to provide villagers with the opportunity to voice their ideas forT he program of cooperation between development directly to the province’s CHESH and the Lao government highest authority. Normally in Laos, began in October 1999 with a villagers would not have such anmonth long visit by four senior PRDFA opportunity. They might address theirstaff to Vietnam, to exchange ideas on concerns to their village leader, and thetheir respective countries’ laws and village leader might carry them to thepolicies on community development, district authorities, but it was rare, even forhunger alleviation, poverty reduction, and the village leader, to speak to anyonethe resettlement of highland ethnic higher in authority than district officers.minority communities. During the visit, The usual flow of communication was top-PRDFA staff were taken to visit various down, from central government to theareas in Vietnam where TEW was provinces, from provincial authorities toworking, to see for themselves the districts, and from district authorities toeffectiveness of its ‘bottom up’ the government appointed village leaders,development approach. The study tour was who then conveyed the authorities’ wishesfollowed by a practical training session on to the people. But by enlisting the villagersthe methods of Participatory Rural to present their development plans directlyAppraisal (PRA)1 in two villages in Luang to the province’s highest authority,Prabang province, Laos: Long Lan, a high CHESH was seeking to reverse this patternaltitude White Hmong village, and Xieng of communication, in an effort to breakDa, a Lao Lum village. The objective of down the villagers’ sense of isolation. Itthis exercise was for PRDAF staff to was also hoped that this would strengthenexperience working alongside village the villagers’ commitment and confidenceelders, village leaders and ordinary village to follow through with their developmentmembers of different ethnic groups in plans.identifying their development needs,problems and solutions. After these first few steps, CHESH was invited to continue working in Laos, At the completion of the PRAs, the and a follow-up programme with the titleresults were presented to the Luang “The pilot research on communityPrabang People’s Committee2 at the development based on cultural identity ofCommittee’s offices in Luang Prabang, Long Lan village, Luang Prabang districtwith the full participation of and Xieng Da village Nam Bac district, Luang Prabang province, Lao PDR” was1 PRA is a family of approaches and methods to approved. This project would come toenable local people to share and enhance their constitute phase one of the CHESH-Laoknowledge of life and conditions, and extend that program.knowledge into analysis, planning and action. It isdesigned to facilitate analysis by local rural peoplerather urban outsiders. Local people are encouragedto express their own knowledge, conduct their ownanalysis, and assert their own priorities (SeeChambers 1994).2 The Provincial People’s Committee is the highestpolicy implementation at provincial level.6|Page
    • PHASE ONE: JANUARY 2000-JUNE 2002 opium poppies. In 2000, however, the Lao government had ordered that all opium poppy cultivation in Laos cease by theCommunity year 20053. This presented Long Lan with the serious challenge of quickly having toDevelopment Based on find an alternative source of cash income.Cultural Identity Other challenges were arising from pre assures upon its forest and land resources from encroachment by neighbouringP hase one of the CHESH Lao Program ran from January 2000 to June 2002 and involved a variety ofactivities in Long Lan and Xieng Davillages based upon the earlier self- villages and outside commercial interests. For CHESH, the challenge was to work with village elders, leader and key-farmers to stimulate a search for new sustainable forms natural resource utilization thatassessments of their development needs would, at the same time, allow the villagemade during the PRA exercise held in to maintain and strengthen itsS culturalDecember 1999 - January 2000. identity. The strategy was to provide studyProgramme activities were designed tomeet the needs of each village, taking intoaccount their specific social, economic,and ecological characteristics, with anemphasis on developments consistent withthe strengthening of cultural identity.Long LanL ong Lan is a White Hmong village located at 1300 metres above sea level in a mountainous area 40 kmnortheast of Luang Prabang. In 2004 LongLan had 61 households and a population of437 people. It had been established in 1975from the consolidation of several smallerHmong villages that had moved into the‘Phu Sung’ (high mountain) areas severalgenerations before. Hmong culturaltraditions remained strong in Long Lanand everyday life in the village was Figure 3: Hmong girl in Long Lan village, Luang 3governed by its own customary laws. Long Prabang district, Luang Prabang,an integral part of “Opium eradication in Laos is Laos (CHESHLan was also blessed with around 9000 Laos worldwide “war on drugs’ wages under the the - 2005)hectares of natural forest rich in leadership of the United States and the United Nations Drug Control programme (UNDCP).biodiversity, and a large area of fertile land UNDCP formulated a Comprehensive Drugsuitable for cultivation. But they faced a Control Program for Lao PDR for the period 1994-major problem.Like many other highland 2000. In 1996 the Lao Government revised its drugindigenous ethnic minority communities in control law and prohibited the production of opium.northern Laos, the major source of cash In December 2000 the Prime Minister issues a decree (no. 14) ordering the total elimination ofincome in Long Lan was from the sale of opium in the country by 2006 (later revised toopium from the annual cultivation of 2005).” (Cohen and Lyttleton 2008)7|Page
    • Figure 4: Long Lan Council of Elders in the Hmong Traditional Flute Performance (CHESH Lao 2007) tours to Vietnam and other parts of Laos for establishing and operating key-farmer where similar problems were being networks for the implementation and experienced, in order to stimulate the management development projects. On development of new ideas. Then practical their return to Long Lan the nine key- training would be provided to assist the farmers developed a six-month action plan villagers in the development of ‘common- to develop a set of common-interest clubs: interest clubs’ – groups of farmers or for cultural preservation, forest protection, households focusing on a particular vegetable cropping, environment and development activity. hygiene, animal husbandry and veterinary services, and savings and credit. The project began in March 2001 Regulations were developed to govern with a week long tour of nine key-farmers each of these clubs according to the to various provinces of Vietnam to study a village’s own customary laws. Before long wide range of issues relating to natural the forest protection and management resource management, such as the causes group had uncovered two cases of illegal and consequences of deforestation, logging, the vegetable cropping group had methods of forest management and classified areas of land suitable for protection, sustainable methods of vegetable crop production, practical slopping land cultivation, the cu ltivation training in animal husbandry and and use of herbal medicine, the negative veterinary services had been received impacts of tourism, the Vietnamese (from the Luang Prabang Agricultural and experience of terminating opium poppy Forestry Department) after which the cultivation, techniques for improving the animal husbandry and veterinarian group soil quality, the value of village base vaccinated the village’s cattle and common-interest clubs, and the methods chickens. Training was also organized on 8|Page
    • saving and credit for 60 villagers who later 2002 it had 121 households and aformed four savings and credit groups with population of 700 people. Ninety-one pera total of 38 members. cent of the population were Lao Lum (113 households) and 9 per cent Khmu (8 At the request of the villagers, a households). The village managed landsproject was then organised to construct suitable for both wet and dry rice farmingpermanent toilets for 13 households that and had a long tradition of silk and cottonhad been omitted from an earlier European weaving. But when CHESH staff arrivedUnion supported project.Regulations in the village 1999, they found it to be in agoverning labour contributions, poor condition, lacking in strongmonitoring, management, and maintenance leadership, and having no clear directionof the project were developed by the for development. The village was litteredvillage elders, and a construction company with rubbish and its water ways heavilywas contracted by PRDFA to provide the polluted. Initial inquiries pointed to adesign, a budget plan, and advice on breakdown in community relations, withconstruction techniques. According to the growing concerns about inter-generationaloriginal contract, the villagers were to conflict, inter-households and even intra-manage the finances, learn the skills and household theft. Most indicative of thetechniques of constructions, and construct village’s low morale, however, was thethe toilets themselves, but contrary to deplorable state of its temple. The Xiengintentions PRDFA delegated full Da temple had been damaged by bombingresponsibility for the toilet construction to during the American war but had neverthe construction company, with the result been repaired. It now stood abandoned inthat the villagers’ active role in the project temple grounds that were littered withfailed to eventuate. In a consequence rubbish and human waste. For a Laotypical for the type of ‘non-participatory,’ village, in which the temple is normally‘top down’ method of project the centre of spiritual and community life,administration that CHESH was seeking to this was a strikingly visible sign of theovercome, the villagers received no erosion in Xieng Da of cultural values,opportunity to develop their own traditions, and pride. It appeared that thecapabilities, expenditure exceeded what people no longer cared (Vandenhende:was planned for, and the location and 109). However, during their first meetingdesign of the 13 toilets was unsuitable. with CHESH, it became clear that theThe project’s failure demonstrated the villagers were not indifferent the state ofdifficulty of changing the government’s their village. In the past they had strong‘top-down’ mind-set on community social ties and an active cultural life, anddevelopment. It would be some years, and their temple had once been famous in theafter further costly mistakes, before the area for its monks, but these things hadidea of villagers designing and managing fallen into disrepair. It was decided,their own development projects would be therefore, that in order to remedy thefully accepted by the local government negative spiral into which the village hadauthorities. fallen, the project in Xieng Da would begin with the restoration of its temple and the temple grounds.Xieng Da This decision was consistent with the TEW/CHESH philosophy that centralX ieng Da is a lowland Lao village, 96 km north of Luang Prabang and 15 km south of Nam Bac. In to any community’s life is their spiritual and cultural values. In Lao villages, the temple is the spiritual centre, but also the9|Page
    • Figure 5: ‘Ton Phu- Spiritual Tree, and Buddha Statue in the Xieng Da Pagoga (CHESH Lao 2005)centre for communal activities; the site of elder men and the village leader organizedmoral education, ceremonial and cultural visits to temples in other villages in Luangactivities. In the absence of a functioning Prabang district to generate ideas for thetemple, these activities had declined in temple restoration. Fundraising activitiesXieng Da and needed to be revived. So, were organized and the temple groundswhile pla ns were being made for the repair were cleaned up. After a month the templeof the temple, a temporary communal had been repaired and plans had begun for‘culture house’ was constructed in the its upgrading.temple grounds as somewhere wherecommunity meetings and cultural Following the temple restoration,performances could be held,4 and where religious life in Xieng Da revived and thethe younger generation could relearn their village once again became a centre oftraditional dances and songs, and religious activities for monks and villagersreconnect with their elders, and their from neighbouring villages. It also becametraditional norms and culture. While the a site for the exchange of ideas andculture house was being built, a group of information on development activities, and alongside the temple restoration a number4 One hundred and twenty villagers were involved of infrastructure projects were alsoin the planning and building of the temporary organized. During the 1999 PRA exercise,culture house, contributing materials to the value of the Xieng Da community had expressed2.3 million Kip including 600 sheets of roofing, 20 the need for a gravity-fed drinking waterwooden and 840 bamboo poles, 2 kg of nails and system and this led to an investigation to240 bundles of bamboo string. The building wascompleted in 15 days and became a place for discover a suitable water source. One wascommunity meetings and cultural activities. found in a nearby mountain, but inside the10 | P a g e
    • administrative boundary of the CHESH which was to gradually expandneighbouring Khmu village of Nam Kha. their activities in Lao to incorporate otherThis made it necessary to bring the elders ethnic minority groups.of the two villages together to negotiate anagreement for access. It was eventually Other construction activities inagreed that the two villages would Xieng Da were the repair of 100 metres ofcooperate in implementing a drinking internal road; the dredging of 200 metreswater system for both villages and a of water channel; and the clearing of 1300further series of meetings were held to metres of its banks of vegetation6. Thedesign the system and develop regulations channel dredging provided sufficientcovering the labour contributions of each irrigation for 30 ha of spring-winter seasonside.5 cropping, allowing an extra 54 tonnes of wet rice to be harvested each year, thereby The cooperation had some ensuring greater food security for theimportant consequences. Previously village. In the past, villagers had plantedrelations between the two villages had only one crop of rice. To further improvebeen strained. The land on which Nam agricultural production, the villagers askedKha had been established (under the Lao for and received training on the basicgovernment’s Resettlement Program) had techniques of grafting, planting andpreviously belonged to Xieng Da, and this maintaining tree crops, animal husbandryhad brought conflict between the two and veterinary services, and in savings andgroups over land, forest and water use. But credit.7as a consequence of their cooperation inimplementing the drinking water system,relations between the two villagesimproved, and thereafter, whenever XiengDa organized project activities, Nam Khavillagers were invited to be involved.Eventually, Nam Kha asked to be formallyincluded in the CHESH-Lao Program,fulfilling one of the primary goals of5 6 In each village, households were divided into The organization of these projects followed thesmall groups and assigned responsibilities. A same pattern as for the drinking water system.Luang Prabang construction company was Elder men and the village leader organizedappointed as consultants and members of the meetings to gain approval for the design of theyounger generation were selected for learning the road, villagers discussed and developed regulationstechniques of pipeline construction and on labour contributions and households weremaintenance. In 24 days the drinking water system divided into small groups with leaders assigningwas completed to a length of 6 kilometres with 21 responsibilities to each member.taps located at different household clusters; with 7one common tank with the capacity of 40 cubic Subsequently 475 chickens, 24 turkey, 241 ducks,metres to supply both villages. As an outcome, 82 50 pigs, and 55 buffalo were vaccinated, and ahouseholds (24 in Xieng Da and 58 in Nam Kha) medical chest for animal health set up in thereceived fresh drinking water, greatly reducing village. Training was also provided on saving andtheir labour time required for water collection. As a credit. Fourteen villagers were trained inresult of villager participation in its construction, bookkeeping, opening a bank account andthe cost of drinking water system was reduced and establishing and operating savings and creditthe money saved used for extending its service to groups. Four saving and credit groups that had beenNam Kha village. Villager participation also set up in the past were united into one with nineensured that the villagers would be ablemaintain members with deposits of 1.6 million Kip availablethe system and repair it themselves when for borrowing for investment in agriculturalnecessary. Funds to cover maintenance costs were production.raised from household water use.11 | P a g e
    • cages for buffalo, cows and chickens which previously had roamed freely in the village. In November, a 10 day study tour was organized for 13 key-farmers from Xieng Da to Hoa Binh, Ha Tay, Nghe An and Lao Cai provinces in Vietnam to study natural resource management, traditional culture, methods ofFigure 6: A Lao Lum women in Xieng Da is spinning (CHESH Lao 2005) slopping land cultivation, theTo satisfy the villagers’ increasing role and value of herbal medicine, and howdemands, a two week study tour was to set up and operate weaving groups.organized in March and April of 2001 for Following the study tour the 13 key-14 farmers from Xieng Da and several farmers developed an action plan to applystaff of Nam Bac district, Luang Prabang the lessons learnt in Vietnam andprovince and PRDFA, to a research centre requested that the CHESH projectin Vientiane Province to study fruit tree, undertake land and forestland allocationslopping land cultivation, rural for households in Xieng Da to secure theirdevelopment, and chicken raising. land-use rights.Following the tour, the villagers of XiengDa established a Village DevelopmentTeam to formulate action plans and Nam Kharegulations for village developmentactivities. ‘Interest Groups’ wereestablished for vegetable cropping, animalraising, environment and hygiene, forestprotection and management, and culturepreservation. Plans were developed for N am Kha is a Khmu village 100km north of Luang Prabang and 20 km south of Nam Bac central town, and only a few kilometres from Xieng Da.winter-spring season cultivation and Khmu are traditionally shifting cultivatorsexperimentation began with new species of of mid-altitude mountain slopes. Theyrice, maize, peanuts, sesame, and soybean. number about 400,000 in Laos and areThe leader of the Development Team, Mr found only in north. Small populations ofXom Lit (later to become an important key Khmu can also be found in northernfarmer in the Lao-Vietnam key-farmer Thailand and Vietnam. They are speakersnetwork) experimented with planted maize of one of the Mon-Khmer family ofand new rice species. Members of the languages which differentiates them fromanimal husbandry and cropping groups the Lao (Tai language family) and Hmongorganize and implement environment and (Sino-Tibetan language family). Khmu arehygiene work, making compost pits, and one of the more socially, economically,12 | P a g e
    • and politically marginalised groups inLaos. Although many have adoptedlowland ways of life similar to that of theLao, they have retained their animist, non-Buddhist religion and they suffer from theprejudice of many Lao Lum who lookupon the Khmu as‘backward.’ Thisnegative prejudice affects their social andeconomic opportunities. In 1972 a number Khmu familieshad been resettled at Nam Kha under theLao Government’s Resettlement Program.By 2004 there were 67 households with apopulation of 381 people. As describedabove, Nam Kha was not originally part ofthe CHESH-Lao Program, but becameinvolved during the building of the XiengDa water supply system. Although thevillage was located close to the main roadtheir living conditions were very poor.They faced food shortages for half theyear, and for a large part of the populationhunger was a daily reality. After Figure 7: Khmu people in Nam Kha (CHESH Lao, 2005)investigating the causes of this poverty,CHESH found that the village had never cages for domestic animals whichreceived any outside aid. On the positive previously had roamed freely in theside, they had maintained their traditional village. They also experimented with 6patterns of social organization and adhered hectares of winter-spring rice planting, andto their traditional system of values following the Xieng Da example,associated with their worship of the spirit constructed a community house to holdof Pha Bua Mountain. In contrast to Xieng traditional festivals.Da, the community spirit in Nam Kha wasstrong and in Mr. Bunchin they had an Other activitiesenergetic and determined leader. Theprinciple challenges facing Nam Kha weretheir sense of isolation and resulting lackof confidence, the negative prejudices ofoutsiders, a lack of secure land-use rights, B eside activities directly related to community development in Long Lan, Xieng Da and Nam Kha, work on developing the capacity of PRDFA staff continued into 2001 with aand the problems of adjustment to the newmarket economy. four month visit to Chiang Mai University in Thailand to study numerous topics Following their request to be related to highland indigenous ethnicincluded in the CHESH Lao Program, minority economic and communityfarmers from Nam Kha joined those from development: sustainable natural resourceXieng Da on the study tour to the research management in National Parks; thecentre in Vientiane, and on their return impacts of tourism on indigenous ethnicestablished a saving and credit group and minority groups; land and forest rights andorganizing environment and hygiene work customary laws of highland communities;to construct compost and waste pits and and the negative impacts of Dams on rural13 | P a g e
    • livelihoods. PRDFA staff also held Rural Development and Agricultural anddiscussions Thai NGOs and members of Forestry Departments on methods ofethnic minority communities on the project evaluation.development programmes of the Thaigovernment. In May, CHESH organized a Earlier, in June, a workshop hadstudy tour for 12 representatives of Luang been held to evaluate project activities.Prabang province and 2 PRDFA staff to Staff of PRDFA and CHESH worked withdiscuss issues of land and forest members of ‘Interest Groups’ in the threemanagement with the Ministry of villages to discuss their achievements,Agriculture and Rural Development difficulties, solutions and plans for the(MARD) and the Ministry of Land in future. Then, key-farmers from the threeVietnam, and on returning to Laos plans villages organized a workshop to sharewere developed for land allocation to the their experiences in organizing andthree pilot villages to be implemented in implementing development activities in20038. Finally, in October an eight day their villages. The workshop was attendedpractical training session was held for five by authorities from Luang PrabangPRDFA staff and two from Luang Prabang province, PRDFA, and the Lao MinistriesFigure 8: Garlic Harvesting in Nam Kha (CHESH Lao, 2006)8 A Land and Forest Allocation was eventuallycarried out In Long Lan in 2004 and 2005. Seebelow.14 | P a g e
    • of Agriculture and Forestry and Foreign study the beliefs and customs of eachAffairs. It dealt with the issues of village and their local knowledge of cropencouraging traditional culture, the production and natural resourceresettlement of indigenous ethnic management. The second was to offerminorities, maintaining household opportunities for villagers to recognize andlivelihoods, saving and credit, agricultural discuss the social, political and economicand forestry extension, and infrastructure challenges facing them, and create theimprovement. These were all issues of conditions for them to work together topriority for the Lao Government, but it was find suitable solutions. The third step wasthe first time government authorities had to provide the opportunities for villagers toever attended a workshop on them that had plan, set up, and monitor their ownbeen organized and conducted by development activities, creatingvillagers: normally government staff were opportunities for the different communitiesthe organizers and villagers only listened. to exchange their knowledge and experiences with each other, monitor each Finally, from December 2001 to other’s activities, and draw lessons fromJanuary 2002 a further workshop on them. The final step was to create thepoverty reduction, hunger alleviation and conditions for the villagers to organizeresettlement was held in Vientiane, co- district, provincial and national levelorganized by PDRFA and CHESH. One workshops to evaluate their developmenthundred and thirty participants including activities.key-farmers, village leaders and clan headsfrom eight different ethnic minority groups In June 2002, in order to bring its(Hmong, Dzao, Gia Rai, Thai, Kinh, Lao operations closer to participating villages,Lum, Ede and Khmu) from both Laos and a CHESH field office was opened inVietnam attended to sharetheir experiences Luang Prabang, and in October PRDFAon the sustainable use and management of formally transferred its role andslopping land, the protection and responsibility for the CHESH-Laodevelopment of forest resources, and the Program to a Project Management Boardimportance of cultural identity in made up of key-farmers from Long Lan,contributing to poverty reduction, Xieng Da, and Nam Kha villages, andalleviating hunger, and the development of representatives of the Luang Prabangstable household economies. The Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Officeworkshop was attended by authorities from (PAFO) and the Luang Prabang and Namthe Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bac district offices. This decentralizationMinistry of Agriculture and Forestry, the of responsibility set the stage for the nextNational Agriculture and Forestry phase of the CHESH-Lao Program, fromExtension service, and the Vietnam January 2003 to December 2005, toEmbassy in Laos, and participants were “Strengthen CHESH Lao program totaken on field trips to Long Lan, Xieng Da facilitate key-farmer network onand Nam Kha villages to see the sustainable community development ineffectiveness of two years cooperation Long Lan, Xieng Da and Nam Khabetween PRDFA and CHESH. villages, Luang Prabang Province”.AssessmentB y June 2002, CHESH-Lao had consolidated its approach of community development based oncultural identity. The first step had been to15 | P a g e
    • PHASE TWO: JANUARY 2003-DECEMBER 2005 project focus would be different for eachStrengthening the Key-Farmer Networks inSustainable CommunityKey-farmer networksT he goal in phase two of the CHESH Lao Program – to strengthen key- farmer networks for sustainablecommunity development - was a strategicobjective that CHESH had inherited fromits parent organization, TEW. In Vietnam, Figure 9: Key farmer network (CHESH Lao – 2005)key-farmers of the TEW network hadalready developed a number of strong village. In Long Lan, with its strongCommunity-Based Organisations (‘interest culture and is rich natural resources, thegroups’) as a foundation for sustainable focus was on sustainable natural resourceindigenous development. The object was utilization; in Xieng Da and Nam Kha itto create a similar network in Laos. In each was on improving their material andvillage, villagers were encouraged to spiritual life. In all three villages, theidentify knowledgeable farmers who were strategy was to create opportunities for keyprepared to volunteer to work as key farmers, elders, and village leaders topersons in coordinating development participate in study tours to different partsactivities. These ‘key-farmers’, together of Laos or Vietnam to stimulate new ideaswith customary and formal village leaders, and plans for community and economicwould then meet and develop action plans development. The plans would then befor meeting the development needs and carried out through the setting up ofpriorities of their villages. The action plans ‘common interest groups’, i.e., groups ofwould then be passed to PAFO for farmers or households focusing onapproval and integration into the work particular development activities. Practicalplans of the local district offices. Based on training sessions would be provided to aidthese action-plans, a Project Management members of interest groups in acquiringBoard, made up of key-farmer from each the skills necessary to carry out theirof the three villagers and representatives of function. The principle areas of activity forPAFO would approve and facilitate the the CHESH Lao Program during thisproject activities with the help of resources phase were in 1) traditional culture, 2)mustered by CHESH. women’s weaving, 3) household and community economic development, 4) To reflect their different cultural infrastructure development, 5) professionaland natural resource endowments, the training, and 6) land allocation.16 | P a g e
    • resident monk and novices. During its reconstruction a number Xieng Da villagers were trained as painters and sculptors who were later able to produce similar works for other temples in the district. The temple restoration also sparked the revival of musical performances. Lost traditional musical instruments were recovered and a music team set up to perform at village and religious festivals. In the words of one village elder, Mr Xieng Xi Phan, “after the temple was reconstructed, the religious belief of the community increased. As they see festivals and the behaviour of elders toward Buddha, they perceive the existence of Buddha in their village, and that makes them happier.” In Long Lan, cultural restoration activities took the form of building a communal cultural house as a place where cultural artefacts reflecting the traditional culture of Hmong people could be preserved, and where cultural Figure 10: A traditional dance of Hmong in Long Lan performances and community meetings (CHESH Lao, 2007) could be held.Traditional culture Household and community economic developmentI n the first phase of the CHESH Lao Program, CHESH had supported the restoration and upgrading of thetemple in Xieng Da, as a place where thevillagers could meet and conduct their H ousehold and community economic development continued through the process of study tours, the setting up of interest groups and thetraditional cultural and religious practices. provision of practical training in cropThe restoration was completed during the production, animal raising, veterinarysecond phase with addition of Buddha services, weaving, and savings and credit.statues, paintings of scriptural scenes, and A study tour by Xieng Da and Nam Khathe erection of a Buddha statue in the farmers to the Thai community in Hanhtemple grounds beneath an ancient Bodhi Dich commune in Nghe An province intree. As a result of these activities, Vietnam resulted in a group of Nam Khareligious and spiritual life in Xieng Da was key-farmers experimented with a Hanhreinvigorated. The traditional customs of Dich variety of rice. When this did notdaily alms-giving and mutual help were produce the hoped for results they changedrestored and the temple complex was to growing a native species of garlic. Intransformed from a neglected and uncared Long Lan, villagers organized their ownfor place into a sacred area where Xieng study tour to the Lao province of XiengDa villagers could worship daily. The Khoang, to learn how to grow plum treesrestored temple attracted monks from and asparagus, and on their returnsurrounding areas and soon it had its own experimented with asparagus growing.17 | P a g e
    • Twenty eight farmers from Long Lan, and veterinary services was provided. This Xieng Da and Nam Kha also participated resulted in the setting up of a joint Xieng in a study tour to Xieng Ngan district in Da-Nam Khan animal husbandry and Laos to learn about tomato farming, and veterinary service group to take after the study tour requested the Project responsibility for vaccinating the animals Management Board to organize training in in two villages. The group was also tomato planting techniques. regularly asked to help neighbouringFigure 11: Ecological corn farm of Mr Xom Lit in Xieng Da (CHESH Lao, 2006) villages and was made a member of the Development also took place in district veterinary network by the Nam Bac livestock raising. In Xieng Da interest District Animal Husbandry Office. groups were established for raisinggoats (5 households), pigs (15 households), and Weaving, a traditional women’s fish (10 households). In Nam Kha, they activity in Xieng Da, had once been very were established for raising chickens (19 strong, but it had declined over the years, households), buffalos (3 households), pigs due largely to the flow of imported (1 household), fish (3 households), and products from China, Thailand, and goats (12 households). After one year, the Vietnam. In order to help recover the Nam Khagoat raising group had increased tradition, ten women from Xieng Da were its stock from 12 to 60 goats. To provide selected for a one month training course to villagers with greater confidence to invest learn new weaving techniques and new in the development of their animal herds, a designs more suited to the modern market. program of training in animal husbandry They later established relationships with 18 | P a g e
    • shops in Luang Prabang to sell their heritage of the country.” Mrs Nang Onproducts. As Mrs Nang Pha Ny Keo, a member of the women’s weavingcommented, “I was lucky to participate in groups said that “since the weaving groupsthe training course. I can now weave were set up, relationships in the village arecomplex designs. I borrowed 1.5 million more united. We have enhanced ourKip to invest in weaving and I have knowledge and our livelihood. Before, wealready earned 1.8 million Kip.” On had to buy towels and shawls, but now weaverage one woman could produce a 1.5 m can make them.” The Luang Prabangx 50cm length of cloth per day and earn Provincial Women’s Union planned to13,000 Kip. As more women asked to be promote the Nam Kha women’s weavingtrained in weaving the ten original women group as a model for adoption by otherset up a woman’s weaving training group. villages in the district. Their success alsoWeaving not only helped increase family fed back to Xieng Da. As Mrs Namg Xy,incomes during the non-farming season,it head of the Xieng Da weaving group said,also had an important effect on raising the “I am a trainer of Nam Kha weavingvalue and role of women in their groups. After training, I saw that Nam Khacommunity. women are responsible and united. They organized their work well. I shared this Although weaving was not a lesson to Xieng Da women and now Xiengtraditional activity in Nam Kha, the revival Da women also want to behave like Namof weaving in Xieng Da encouraged Kha women.”women of Nam Kha to set up their ownweaving groups and ask the women of Most of the interest groupsXieng Da to train them. Their husbands described above had a need for credit tobuilt weaving frames for them and a house finance their activities. To satisfy this needin which they could weave together as a CHESH invited two farmer-coordinatorscollective. Husbands also took over some from its sister organization, the Centre forof their wives’ farming work and childcare Indigenous Knowledge Research andresponsibilities to free their wives’ time for Development (CIRD)9 in Vietnam, toweaving. After a month, ten women were organize training on setting up saving andproducinghigh quality products. They then credit groups. Interest group members intrained a further eight women. Once the Xieng Da received 20 million Kipgroup became known to the Nam Bac (US$2000) from the savings and creditWomen’s Union, the Union organized for programme to invest in animal raising. Inone of the group to take part in a four Nam Kha, members borrowed 15 millionmonth course on tailoring so they could Kip (US$1,500).With a 400,000 Kip loan,begin producing clothing. They can now some fish raising households were able toproduce tailored products not only for their gain incomes of 1 million Kip.own use but also sell to Khmu people inother villages. Mr Bunchin, vice leader of Infrastructure developmentsNam Kha remarked that “we are veryhappy to see clothes made by our women.Outsiders will not look down on us,because Khmu women can learn weavingcareer which we never knew before.” It I nfrastructure developments carried out during the second phase of the programme included the constructionwas even reported in the Vientiane Times 9 In 2000, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledgehow “the training course taught Khmu Research and Development (CIRD), a former fieldpeople to learn how to weave. This office of TEW in Quang Binh province, Centralgenerates higher incomes for households Vietnam, became an independent Science andand contributes to preserve cultural Technology organization under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA).19 | P a g e
    • of a water system in Long Lan and support of scholarships from the CHESH-permanent toilets for 64 households in Lao Program. Two other young people, aNam Kha. In 2003, district technicians young woman from Xieng Da and a youngdesigned a water supply system for Long man from Nam Kha, were trained directlyLan village with a budget of 110 million by CHESH, in computer andKip. Following the conventional ‘top- administrative work. The young womandown’ approach to development, the went on to study at the FinancialLuang Prabang district office hired a University of Luang Prabang and later toconstruction company to design and work for CHESH-Lao. The young manimplement the system. Under this returned to work in his home village.approach, the villagers would have had no Scholarships were also provided for twoopportunity to participate in its young Hmong women to study economicsmanagement. Consequently, CHESH at Hanoi National University, and for arenegotiated the project. Under the new young Hmong man to take a six-monthterms, the villagers were to locate the course in Vietnamese language. One of thewater source, design and construct the young Hmong women later worked for aswater system, and manage the finances and an organizer for the CHESH-Laopersonnel themselves. They divided programme before leaving to join an otherthemselves into teams to implement development organization in Vientiane.different aspects of the work andcompleted the construction in 30 days, at Land allocationthe cost of 50 million Kip, less than halfthe original budget. Two reservoirs wereconstructed at the head of the system with3000 metres of pipe line; one commonwater tank and seven additional water B y far the most far reaching activity undertaken during the second phase of the CHESH Lao Program was the land and forest allocation carriedstations were constructed inside the out in Long Lan in 2004 and 2005. Landvillage. Having constructed the system and forest allocation was a formal processthemselves the villagers were better able to promoted by the Lao government aimed atadjust it for each season and carry out providing individuals and households withnecessary maintenance work. The new legally recognized land-use rights. In thewater system lessened the workload for present case, land allocation was sought bywomen and children, and improved the the villagers themselves as a way ofhealth and hygiene of the whole securing control over their naturalcommunity. In Nam Kha, the villagers resources in the face of threats ofrequested training on toilet construction in encroachment by outside commercialorder to improve the hygiene situation in interests.their village. A training course wasorganized and five villagers were trained, Originally, a land allocationwho later trained others. After one month, programme was to be carried out in Xieng64 households in Nam Kha village had Da, but the government’s decision toconstructed their own toilets. appropriate part of village’s land to build a Northern Army Training School resultedProfessional training in a level of dispute that made it impossible to proceed. Land and forestI n order to meet new skill requirements, two young people from Xieng Da were selected for professional trainingcourses at the Agricultural and ForestryCollege in Xieng Ngan district with the allocation activities were therefore shifted to Long Lan. CHESH was approved to support the programme in cooperation with local government authorities. CHESH’s role was to provide the funding20 | P a g e
    • Land and Forest AllocationIn the early 1990s, the Lao government began aprogramme of land reform aimed at increasingagricultural production and conserving forest and methodology, PAFOreserves. The reform was implemented through a officers were to provide theLand and Forest Allocation policy to provide farmers technical expertise, and Longwith secure use rights to productive land and to Lan villages do thecontrol the expansion of shifting cultivation. The implementing.first step in this process was to delineate a village’sboundaries. This was followed by the zoning of Given the dangersvillage land, proscribing how the different areas inherent in the allocationshould be used. Zoning, based on existing process resulting fromvegetation and past use by farmers, divided village limitations of staff training andland into ‘farmland’ - areas farmed on a permanent the contradictions betweenbasis - and ‘forest’ - the remaining land of the customary and state proscribedvillage, whether wooded or not. Forestland was land use practices CHESHfurther divided into ‘Conservation Forest’ where all proposed that the allocation inactivity is forbidden; ‘Protection Forest’ (watershed Long Lan be led by the Longareas) where gathering is tolerated; ‘Production Lan villages themselves, withForest’ where wood cutting and gathering are priority given to their own localallowed; ‘Regeneration Forest’ where forests are knowledge and customary law.regenerated naturally or by plantation; and This was agreed to and training‘Degraded Forest’ which can be granted to families sessions were held to instructbased on their farming needs. The next step was for government technical staff infarmland and degraded forest to be allocated to what was required. But thingsindividuals and households. Village representatives did not go according to plan.would then draw up a resource management plan Feedback during the post-with local authorities, and management of the land allocation celebrations revealedand forest transferred to the village. a number of serious The policy was seen as relatively progressive, shortcomings: the implementingin that it recognized the customary resource use agency had failed to ensure thepractices and collective as well as private use rights. full involvement of villagers inBut unexpected social and environmental problems the decision making process,arose from its implementation. These problems have and land allocation decisionsbeen seen as deriving from several interrelated had not been based upon localsources: (1) the limited budget and technical skills of knowledge and customary law.local government agencies led to the implementation The contribution of the villagersof LFA without adequate consideration of customary in the process had been largelyresource use practices; (2) Forest classification were that of passive assistants to thebased on the Forest Law, which led to fixed province’s technical staff. This,territorial boundaries and prescribed uses not in tune according to the CHESHwith the dynamic resource use practices of the local Director, violated the principlepeople; (3) The broad zoning of land as suitable or of participatory action uponnot for agriculture placed areas customarily used which the project was supposedoutside the control of local people, while (4) the to be based. The allocationtransfer of farmland to private ownership removed process had also left manyaccess by others to what had been common property conflicts, both within Long Lanresources; and (5) any conflicts were to be settled by and between Long Lan and itsthe authorities in change of applying the policy surrounding villages,(Fujita and Phanvilay 2008; Ducortieux, Laffort and unsatisfactorily resolved bySachlokham 2005; Vandergeest 2003). order from the District authority without any inquiry into their causes or the acceptability of 21 | P a g e
    • their resolution to the people concerned. the technical staff of PAFO were to act asThe CHESH Director saw this as their assistants transferring the receivedunsustainable, leaving open the possibility information onto the maps and doing theof resentment and possibly violent conflict necessary calculations to determine thein the future. Due to these shortcomings, areas of the different zones.she refused to accept the allocation andordered that it be done again: this time One important matter to be resolvedusing the correct participatory during the second land allocation was lackmethodology and based on a fuller of fit between statutory categories of forestunderstanding of the knowledge and and land use and those defined by thecustomary practices of the Hmong spiritual beliefs and customary practices ofcommunity. To this end an expert in Hmong. For example, the government’sHmong culture, a key farmer from On Oc category of ‘restricted forest’ was designed for the purpose of biodiversity protection and genetic species preservation; for the Long Lan people ‘restricted forest’ is understood as ‘Pa Tong Xeng’ - forest areas to be preserved for the protection of the spirits of the land, trees and animals - and ‘Pa Xa’ – forest areas preserved for the protection of human spirits (Pa Xa containing burial grounds). Similarly in the case of ‘protected forests’: in statutory terms, ‘protected forests’ are for watershed protection and the prevention of erosion. Cultivation is not allowed in such areas although some limited production and livelihood activities are permitted. For the Long Lan people, watershed protection and erosion prevention were also seen as necessary, but is understood in terms of protecting water spirits, and the relevant forest area is defined as available for a wide range of livelihood activities such as the gathering of non-timber forest products for food, herbal treatments and handicraft materials. In the case of ‘productionFigure 12: Ceremony for land use right certificate forest’, this is understood in statutory termsgranting (CHESH Lao, 2005) as available for commercial crop production: mono-crops and industrial village in Vietnam where TEW had plantations (rubber, coffee) – uses whichworked previously on land and forest invariably result in soil exhaustion. Forallocation, was employed to live in Long Long Lan people this type of land use,Lan for six months and write an extensive described as “Pa Phom Lit”, does notreport on Long Lan culture and customs. constitute a customarily usage. TheOn the basis of this new understanding, the customary Long Lan term for ‘productionland and forest allocation process beganagain in 2005 with a changed organization: forest’ is “Pa Xom Xai” by which they mean forest “available for use and harvest”.Long Lan villagers were to control theprocess making all the important decisions It describes areas available for local people to use in daily life for harvesting for food,on determining land use boundaries and22 | P a g e
    • housing materials, and medicines, and for conflicts, both within Long Lan andthe practicing of local knowledge aimed at between Long Lan and surroundingmaintaining the land’s biological diversity villages. Here the way forward wasand natural fertility. Mono-crop and initiated by the elders of Long Lan, andplantation production is not allowed in involved a carefully considered andsuch areas; commercial activity is allocated inclusive process of step by stepto non-forested land outside the Long Lan negotiation which among other thingsborder that has been purchased from showed up the inadequacy of the top-downsurrounding villages. process of conflict resolution utilized in the first aborted land allocation process. In the Another illustration of the practical case of conflict within Long Lan thedifferences between the ‘statutory’ requirement was that the disputingallocation of land for production and the households be satisfied with the resolution‘customary-local-knowledge’ based and that the conflict be resolved accordingallocation of such land was the allocation to customary law. There were four step inof land for cattle raising. Under the this process: first the disputing householdsstatutory definition only one area of land would be brought together to discuss thewas allocated for cattle raising, but as the dispute and reach a settlement themselves.Long Lan people pointed out cattle need at If a settlement was reached then it wouldleast two areas – one for the wet season be certified by the village leader. If not, theand one for the dry season, and pigs need a disputants would meet with elders and clandifferent area from cattle. Furthermore, leaders to discuss a settlement together. Ifunder the ‘statutory’ procedure, cattle and the dispute still remained unresolved thenvegetable growing areas were allocated the whole village would be involved in theseparately and exclusively: but in Long discussion. Finally, if no resolution wasLan people used these areas alternately forthcoming, the elders would impose awith the cattle fenced out of the vegetable settlement.growing area during vegetable growing butallowed in during the fellow period to help In the case of disputes betweenrevitalize the soil with their manure. Thus villages, the aim was for the householdsland allocation according to local concerned to feel satisfied with theknowledge and farming practice produced resolution so that solidarity between thea far more diverse set of land use two villages would be strengthened for theallocations than could easily be mutual work of forest protection. Thereaccommodated within the standardised were four steps to this process: first thestatutory categories. Essentially, the causes of the conflict were identified andprocess was one of fitting multiple and the disputing households brought togetherspecific spiritual and practical conceptions to discuss a settlement. If a resolution wasand practices of land use into the restrictive found, then it would be certified by thestandardized categories of state forest law. village leaders. If not, the elders andThe solution was to retain the statutory disputants together would observe thecategories, as was required by law, but to situation in the field and discuss ways ofchange their content to fit customary and settling the dispute on site. If still there waslocal practice, thereby producing a set of still no resolution, the case will be broughtboundaries much more in keeping with to representatives of the two villages, andspiritual and practical reality of the Long only as a last resort would the case beLan people. brought to the District authorities for a decision. Another important matter to beresolved by the second allocation was23 | P a g e
    • The second land allocation was representatives of Long Lan and the 12completed in December 2005 with the surrounding villages to share their ideascommunity and each of the households in with the District forestry authorities. ThisLong Lan receiving land certificates in a resulted in a fourth draft of the regulations.ceremony organised by the District The last step was the final synthesis andChairman. By achieving the mutual typing of the regulations into a 22 pageadaptation of customary and statutory law, document for sending to the Districtscientific and spiritual values, and authorities for approval. Official approvaltechnical and local knowledge, a land of the “community regulations on naturalallocation plan aimed primarily at forest resource management and land usepreservation had been arrived at that was practices of Long Lan based on customaryacceptable to both state and village, and law of Hmong” was given on 21 Decemberthe surrounding 12 affected villages10. The 2005. This was then disseminated to the 12task now was to build a set of community villages surrounding Long Lan.regulations based on customary law togovern the designated land and forest uses. This was the first time that land useThis again involved a carefully considered, regulations produced by a village based onstep by step, and inclusive process. their own customary law had been certified by District authorities in Laos. The careful The first step was for the elders, step by step process of inclusion andspiritual leader, and other prestigious and negotiation was essential for gaining theknowledgeable people of Long Lan to agreement of both government authoritiesrecord their customary law and practices of and the 12 surrounding villages. The mostforest protection, land use, and cultural difficult step was gaining the Districtidentity preservation. These were then authorities initial approval for customaryintroduced to other groups in the village - regulations, as in many instances theseyouth, women and elders – to gain the differed from what were prescribed in law.agreement of the whole village for a first For example, the law provides for fines ofdraft of ‘community regulations in natural 50,000 Kip for violations of land useresource management based on customary regulations, but the Long Lan customarylaw of Hmong’. The second step was to regulation were more severe, providing forpresent this draft of community regulations fines of 300,000 Kip and 500,000 Kip.to District and Provincial agriculture and Under state law people are free to cultivateforestry authorities for them to study and any type of crop on production land, butdebate their compatibility with state under the Long Lan regulations they typeregulations. Step three was to organise a of crops they could cultivate were clearlymeeting between forestry officials and defined. Again, according to state law,Long Lan villagers to discuss differences land should not be left fellow for a longand come up with a second draft. The time (a stipulation that results in rapid soilelders and village leaders of the 12 Khmu, depletion), but according to Long LanLao and Hmong villages surrounding Long regulations land can be left fellow forLan were then invited to consider the sufficient time to regain its fertility.regulations in terms of their own needs,concerns, traditional culture and practices. Following the implementation ofTheir contributions resulted in a third draft. customary law regulation on naturalA conference was then organised between resource management, commitment to the protection of the Phu Sung forest, and10 12 Villages with Lao, Khmu and Hmong solidarity among Khmu, Lao and Hmongpopulations border on the Long Lan forest and are living in the area was strengthened. Withto varying degrees dependent upon access to it for the collaboration of neighbouring villagesnon-timber forest products.24 | P a g e
    • the Long Lan forest protection team was training, Mr Bunchin, vice head of Namable to taken a number independent actions Kha village replied, “because when weto protect the forest. Cases of forest being visited Vietnam, we saw what Vietnamesecut for cultivation by outsiders, and of farmers did and we wanted to try. Now,herbs being collected for trade, were the result is good, so we want to expand tosettled with appropriate fines. Three men the whole village.” Later, when thediscovered stealing rare timber were jailed, growing and marketing of a native speciesand a private company planning to rent of garlic was seen to offered higherforest land for coffee production was returns, they took that up. With the supportstopped. In 2008, the ‘Phu Sung’ forest of women from Xieng Da, the Nam Khawas approved by the Luang Prabang women developed weaving and tailoringprovincial authorities as a Natural and groups, and in cooperation with Xieng DaCultural Preservation Area. they established an animal husbandry and veterinary team to support livestockOutcome raising. As a result of improvements to village hygiene, cases of malaria andT he second phase of the CHESH-Lao Program had as its objective ‘strengthening the key-farmernetwork in Luang Prabang for sustainabledevelopment’. To achieve this objective it diarrhoea diminished, and in 2005 Nam Kha was awarded a title of “clean village” by Nam Bac district.provided a range of study tours andpractical training opportunities for keyfarmers to establish ‘interest groups’ incrop production, animal husbandry andveterinary services, women’s weaving,and saving and credit. In Long Lan thefocus was on securing community rights innatural resource management: in Xieng Daand Nam Kha it was on improving theirmaterial and spiritual life. In Xieng Da, therestoration of the temple which beganduring the first phase and was completedduring the second brought about adramatic revival in religious and culturalpractices which also raised the villagers’spirits for participation in economic Figure 13: "Con Performance of the Hmong in the New Year (CHESH Lao, 2007)developments. In Nam Kha, when CHESHbegan working there, the people had been In Long Lan, the land allocationconsidered by many Lao officials to be programme and the promulgation of‘backward’ and unwilling to learn. But in regulation on natural resource managementtheir participation in the CHESH Lao based on the integration of customary andProgram they had demonstrated the state law was a first for Luang Prabangopposite. In the CHESH approach province and possibly all of Laos. Here thevillagers were encouraged to come up with CHESH Lao Program had had a majortheir own solutions and develop network success in producing a model of land andconnections. When an official of Nam Bac forest allocation for application elsewheredistrict asked why Nam Kha villagers had in Laos. The land allocation projectnot transplanted wet rice before when improved the capacity and confidence ofdistrict technicians came to provide25 | P a g e
    • the technicians with regard to community- such methodology as a live example forbased land allocation processes in other other villages in Luang Prabang provincevillages. For Mr Xulyvan, a technician of to learn from.” The leader of Nam Bo, oneLuang Prabang district, “the land of Long Lan’s neighbouring villages alsoallocation of 2005 was done better than stated “I will learn the lessons of Long Lanthat in 2004 as both villagers and to apply it in my village.” To build upontechnicians didn’t have enough this success, the next phase of the CHESHunderstanding then. Now we organize Lao Program would focus on promotingbetter: staff just do the work relating to “customary law and local knowledge intechnique, the remaining is decided and natural resource management in thedone by villagers. Both people and we watershed areas in Luang Prabangunderstand more. Now I can organize an province”.independent land allocation programme.”And as Mr Silavan, Director of Agro-forestry Extension Board of the Ministryof Agro-Forestry in Laos commented,“land allocation programmes started inLaos in 1989, but staff lacked knowledgeand experience, they just allocated land tothe people without concerning other issueslike customary law integration. There wasno document guiding how to implementland allocation, so each province practicedin a different way. We should learnexperience and lessons from CHESH Laosin land allocation. We have to maximisepeople’s participation. Staff must beequipped with enough knowledge. Weneed to understand this ideology.”Similarly, Mr Somphong, Director ofLuang Prabang Department of Agricultureand Forestry Office (PAFO), said after theland allocation was completed, “Now Iunderstood constraints on natural resourcemanagement through the case of landallocation in Long Lan. We must changeour ways of working as well as enhancethe capacity and awareness of our staff.” As part of the land allocationprocess, community regulation based on anintegration of customary and formal lawwere established in Long Lan to governnatural resource use and management andagreed to between Long Lan and its 12surrounding villages. On this issue, MrSomphong stated “I think the method ofsetting up communal regulations in LongLan is very reasonable and appropriate. Itscontent is also very specific. I will apply26 | P a g e
    • PHASE THREE: 2006-2009 Democratic Republic and the concerns of the people”.Strengthening theNetwork of Customary The next phase of the CHESH Lao programme would focus onLaw in Natural “Strengthening the network of customaryResources Management law” in watershed forest management. The aim was to continue with the decentralization of natural resourceB y July 2006, the CHESH-Lao Program had passed through two phases: From 2001 to 2003,“Community development based oncultural identity”, and from 2004 to 2006, management to the village level for management by customary law and the promotion of grassroots democracy. This was to be done by strengthening the customary laws of natural resource and“Strengthening the key-farmer networks in community management in Long Lan,sustainable community development”. The Xieng Da and Nam Kha by encouragingachievements of these two phases had been the development of and linkages betweenhighly appreciated by Lao authorities. those interest groups based uponAccording to Lao Central and Provincial traditional knowledge in the use andauthorities in an evaluation meeting in managing natural resources, i.e., herbalMarch 2006: medicine, textile handicrafts, forest protection, and ecological farming. “CHESH Laos has proved its Opportunities would be created for key approach’s effectiveness and farmers, village leaders and district impact to the locals. The objectives authorities to discuss together the of the program meet with difficulties faced by each community and principles of sustainble find grassroots, customary law based development in which organic solutions for them. In this way it was relations of human ecology are at intended that emerging new intiatives, the center. The capacity of the involving the integration of customary and people in the three villages of statutory law, would be brought into the Xieng Da, Long Lan and Nam Kha wider polcy making process. Eventually, it have been enhanced, and they are was envisaged, a Farmer Field School11 now able to identify their own would be established in Luang Prabang development orientation. The province as a specialized facility for program has helped them escape villagers, young and old, authorities at all their poverty situation. Community levels, and researchers and academics to as well as families have their own undertake action research in traditional right to land and forest based on the indigenous knoweldge system 11 and customary law. From starting Farmer Field Schools (FFS) are a TEW initiative aimed at ethnic minority youth who are inspired to as a poor village, Nam Kha – practice their own traditions. Young ethnic Khmu minority - has become a well minority students gain experience through practice developed community. Therefore, and study at small model farms at the FFS. It is CHESH Laos meets the orientation hoped that some of these students will become and policies of Lao People’s future leaders in their own communities and demonstrators of a more sustainable and secure Revolution Party and Lao People’s vision of society.27 | P a g e
    • farming systems and customary law based plantations and increased demand forforest management. timber cutting and firewood collection in the areacaused by the increase inHerbal medicine population brought about by the government resettlement programme and the establishment in the area of theA ctivities aimed at strengthening the network of customary law in Northern Military School. In order to natural resource management preserve herbal resources, the leaders ofbegan with herbal medicine in July 2006 Xieng Da lobbied the Nam Bac districtwith a number of study tours for 30 authorities to allocate an area of forest totraditional healers and youths from Long the Xieng Da herbal medicine group forLan, Xieng Da and Nam Kha to their exclusive use and protection.community herbal medicine forests in Subsequently, 59 ha of forest wasBolikhamxay and Udomxay provinces in allocated to the Xieng Da herbal medicineLaos, and to a traditional health care center groups, and 10 hectares to the Nam Khain Vientiane. Following these tours, herbal group. This was the first time Luangmedicine groups were established in each Prabang authorities had allocated land to aof the three villages to manage herbal community interest group for their use andmedicinal forest plants and provide health management.care treatments for their communities.There were 13 members in the herbal In order to reinforce the protectedmedicine group in Long Lan, 11 in Xieng status of their herbal forest, Xieng DaDa, 10 in Nam Kha, and 4 in the villagers took the measure of combiningneighbouring Pheen village. Other the civil ceremony for the transfer of landcommunities nearby Xieng Da were title certificates to the herbal medicineinspired by this development and healers group with the religious ceremony offrom Hua Na and Kiu Ha villages ‘Bout ton may’ - a ceremony forrequested that they too be involved in the recognizing the Buddha’s spirit inactivities of the herbal medicine groups of particular trees. This ceremony isXieng Da and Nam Kha to share their commonly practiced with regard toexperiences in the use of herbal medicines. important trees, usually very old trees within the grounds of a temple, where the tree is virtually ordained as a monk, symbolised by the tying of a piece of a monk’s yellow robe around it. When a tree is so ordained, no one would dare damage it. The ceremony in Xieng Da was enacted to announce to everyone that the forest concerned was not only under the civil protection and managment of the village herbalist group, but also under the spiritually protection of Buddha. This was the first time the ‘BuotFigure 14: Sharing herbal knowledge among healers(CHESH Lao, 2008) ton may’ ceremony had been used in this way in Luang Prabang province and it The revival of interest in herbal attracted hundreds of people from Nammedicine created a hightened awareness of Bac and Luang Prabang districts, includingthe threat to vital forest resources representatives of district authroities, thepresented by the expansion of rubber military, monks from Nam Bac distict, and28 | P a g e
    • high-ranking monks from Luang Prabang descriptions being exchanged. Followingcity. The Director of PAFO described it as the exchange, it was agreed to set up a“a very meaningful community activity Lao-Viet Traditional Cultural Herbalcontributing to forest management and Network (LVTHEN) to facilitate theprotection,” and recommended the “other further sharing of herbal knowledge andvillages should learn and follow”. For consolidate actions for the preservation ofCHESH Lao it was the fulfilment of one of traditional cultural values. A managementtheir principle strategic aims – the board was elected consisting of aintegration of customary and statutary law coordinator and five assistants12. It setto simultaneously strengthen both itself four objectives: (1) Preserve andtraditional cultural values and forest develop herbal resources through theprotection. establishment of community herbal forests and family herbal gardens; (2) Preserve In the period that followed, the and develop traditional herbal knowledgeherbal medicine groups of Long Lan, through enhanced exchanges, sharing, andXieng Da and Nam Kha worked together training for members and people of variousto compose herbal descriptions and ages; (3) Preserve cultural values throughremedies for transfering this knowledge to the preservation of herbal knowledge andthe younger generation. In June 2007, a practices, customary laws in herbalstudy tour to Long Lan village was resource management and protection, andorganized for members of herbal medicine norms and values relating to herbalgroups in Xieng Da, Nam Kha and Pheen practices; and (4) Disseminate herbalvillages where healers and young people knowledge and practices to everybodyidentified 112 herbal plants in their forest who is interested. This was to be theand documented around 35 traditional foundation for further linkages andHmong remedies in both the Hmong and extensions of the network to other areas ofLao languages. In Xieng Da, in the Mekong region.cooperation with Nam Kha, villagerssurveyed and named 118 herbal plants and From May 6 to 19 2009, the Lao-documented them in both Lao and Khmu Viet Network for Traditional Culturelanguages. Observing these actvities, the Herbal Medicine organized study tour toLuang Prabang District Healthcare Vietnam for 17 healers from Xieng Da,Department recommended co-operation Nam Kha, Long Lan, together with healersamong herbalists groups to develop herbs from Nong Het district of Xieng Khongin the forest, and herbalists from villages province and from Vientiane province insurrounding Nam Kha sought cooperation Laos; representatives of the Luangwith the Nam Kha herbalist group to Prabang Provincial Office of Forestry, thecooperate in sharing herbal knowledge and Luang Prabang and Nam Bac Districtprotecting herbal forests. Agriculture and Forestry Offie (DAFO), and Luang Prabang Provincial Association As a result of these activities, a of Oriental Medicine; authorities of Luangmuti-ethnic herbal network had begun to Prabang District People’s Committee; andevolve in Luang Prabang province. The doctors and staff from Luangnext step was to connect this network withthat in Vietnam. In December 2007, thirty 12 The management board consisted of Mr Lan Bay,herbalists from Vietnam - Thai from Hanh Hmong, from Xieng Khoang province, Laos,Dich commune, in Que Phong district; leader; Mr Blia Tua Zang, Hmong, Long LanHmong from Simacai district; and Kinh village; Mr Thit Phai, Lao, Bokeo province, Laos;from Ha Tinh province - visited Long Lan Mr Sung Seo Nha, Hmong, Lao Cai province,village. This resulted in 350 herbal Vietnam; and Mr Luong Kim Dung, Black Thai fromNghe An province, Vietnam.29 | P a g e
    • Prabangprovince. Delegates visited Black demonstrate the linkages between theThai healers at their community herbal preservation of forests, herbal medicinalmedicine forests in HanhDich commune, practices, and traditional culture. After theQue Phong district, Nghe An province; study tour the delegates proposed thatethnic minority students at the model CHESH Lao programme should supportforest biodiversity area of HEPA (Human Luang Prabang district in setting up aEcology Practice Area) 13 in Son Kim I model biodiversity and practical trainingcommune, Huong Son district, Ha Tinh area such as they had seen in HEPA.province; minority students at the FarmerField School in Nan San, Simacai district, Textile handicraftLao Cai province; and elders and Hmonghealers at community forests based on‘Nao Long’ customary law of Hmong inCan Cau and Can Ho communes, inSimacai district of Lao Cai province. Allwere areas where TEW was active in W omen’s textile handicraft was another area of activity based on traditional knowledge and use of natural resources. Since the recovery ofVietnam. The study tour was designed to women’s weaving in Xieng Da, women in1) raise awareness of the value of the village had set up contacts with outsidecustomary law of ethnic minority groups partners for selling their products. Threein protecting natural resources;14and 2) outside investors had invested in the purchase of 45 looms and the provision of industrial thread for Xieng Da women to produce 60 x 220 cm lengths of cloth, for which they paid 8,000 kip. In this system a good weaver could finish 4 cloths per day and generate an average income of from 800,000 to 1,000,000 kip per month.Figure 15: Preparing threads for natural dye (CHESH Lao, 2007) However, the women of13 HEPA is located on 420 ha of primary forest in Xieng Da preferred to produce traditionalHa Tinh province, Vietnam, close to the border cotton products using natural dyes. As Mrswith Laos. It is a demonstration and research centre Bua Van said, “It is difficult to weave suchtrialling the integration of modern eco-farming small industrial threads, because we canpractices such as Permaculture with traditionalpractices, values and beliefs. hardly see it. We do not want to weave it14 For example, Hmong have the customary laws of and want to weave natural dyed fabric. If‘Tong Seng’, ‘Nao Long’ and ‘Thu Ty’ aimed at there is available market for natural dyeingprotecting their land and forest resources, while products, we will turn back to that.”TheyBlack Thai have the law of ‘Lak Xua’.30 | P a g e
    • therefore combined the production of Ecological farmingindustrial products with their owntraditional natural-dyed products for whichthere was interest from buyers in Thailandand Vietnam. For traditional products,handicraft group members produced 12different natural dyes from garden plants F ollowing the banning of opium poppy growing and shift cultivation, the villagers of Long Lan had been forced to search for an alternative means of livelihood. Many families had given upand forest tree fibres, and eight women shifting cultivation and began growing andmaintained an area of 8,000 square meters indigenous variety of vegetable, and thisfor growing cotton. was proving more effective than the older shifting cultivation. According to Mr. In November 2006 a meeting Chong Zia Zang, a pioneer inbetween Lao and Vietnamese weavers was experimenting with high value nativeorganized to set up a cross-border network vegetables, slash and burn cultivation hadcalled “Lao-Viet Handicraft Network”. In produced 2 tons of rice and 5 tons ofJanuary the following year, handicraft maize, enough to keep a family in food,groups in Xieng Da, Nam Kha and Long but it took a lot of time and effort:Lan exhibited their traditional handicraft particularly travelling to and from theproducts at an exhibition in Tam Dao fields, which could take up to half a day.district, Vinh Phuc province, Vietnam. In In addition, the crops often suffered fromFebruary, the Xieng Da handicraft group bad weather, spoilage by animals and soilorganized training in natural dyeing and depletion. By comparison, growingproduced a booklet in Lao, Vietnamese vegetable in the abandoned poppy gardensand English for distribution among the involved less time: they required lessnetwork. Then in April representatives of attention before harvesting and no timehandicraft groups in Xieng Da, Nam Kha was required for clearing the forest.and Long Lan jointed another trip to Furthermore, the annual harvest could earnVietnam to share indigenous knowledge in over ten million Kip, enough not only todyeing with natural colors with Thai, Dzao buy food but also to save for other familyand Hmong women. Twenty six members needs. As a result, between 2004 and 2008,of handicraft networks in Xieng Da, Nam the land area in organic vegetableKha and Long Lan joined the Lao-Viet production increased from 6 to 60 ha, andHandicraft Network to share indigenous production rose up from 30 tons to 384knowledge in dyeing natural colors, tons. The average per capita income fromweaving, and marketing handicraft vegetable production increased fromproducts,15 and developed action plans for 1,400,000 kip in 2004 to 2,600,000 kip inrestoring local techniques in dyeing and 2008. By then, 58 out of 61 households ofweaving and producing traditional Long Lan village were earning an incomeweaving materials through growing cotton from growing organic vegetables.and raising silk worms. Because of the unique climate and organic methods of production, Long Lan vegetables were of exceptionally high quality and highly sought after in Luang15 Prabang. To assist in their marketing, the Mrs.Ly May Chan, Dzao minority in Lao Caiprovince, Vietnam was the coordinator of the CHESH Lao Program opened a shop inNetwork, and Mrs. Xon, Lao Lum in Xieng Da Luang Prabang in the name of "Freshvillage and Mrs. Lo Thi Thanh, Black Thai Organic Vegetable of Long Lan”. Localminority in Hanh dich commune, Que Phong government authorities, media agenciesdistrict, Nghe An province, Vietnam wereassistants.31 | P a g e
    • and famous hotels in Luang Prabang16participated in the opening giving itmaximum publicity. But the villagerseventually found that it was more efficientto sell vegetable from their own village,with different traders organized to arrive intrucks every day to buy direct from thegrowers according to a schedule andconditions of sale controlled by Long Lanvillage. In addition to revenue from thegrowing vegetables, Long Lan alsobenefited from raising local species ofcow. By 2008, the cow population hadgrown from 320 in 2005 to 389, with onefamily having on average 6 cows. Thesewere held mainly as a reserve of capital forfinancing big events for families or thewhole community, then they are sold tolocal buyers for eventual export to Koreavia Vietnam. Figure 16: Harvesting native vegetables in Long Lan (CHESH Lao, 2008) As a result of these economicdevelopments there was a considerableimprovement in food security in Long Lan. Long Lan Ecological VillageBy 2008, out of 67 households, 10 (15%) At the end of 2006, Long Lan washad excess food, 52 households (77%) had designated a “human ecology village” - aenough food, and only 5 households (7%) term used by CHESH to reflect organicfaced annual food shortages. Capital assets interactions between human behaviour andhad also increased. In 2000, there was only natural systems based on the philosophy ofone motorcycle in the village, but by 2008 “nurturing nature”. This was followed bythere were 41 motorcycles, 5 cars and 2 the erection of a signboard at theagro-motors. As a measure of the beginning of the road leading up to Longdevelopment of ‘human capital’, in 2008 Lan village and at different ecologicalthe Luang Prabang Provincial Department zones throughout the forest describing theof Education awarded Long Lan an award type of forest and the regulationsfor illiteracy eradication. governing behaviour within it. The new designation established Long Lan as a site16 for study tours by farmers and provincial Mr. Thong Xa Van, vice chairman of Luang authorities from other parts of Laos,Prabang People’s Committee; Mr.XayNhaPhan, officials from the Asian Developmentdeputy director of PAFO; Mr.XayPhon, PartySecretariat of Luang Prabang District, Luang Prang Bank and Ministry of Agriculture andProvincial department of Commercial and Trading, Forestry, and academics from Dong DokDepartment of Environment, H’mong Newspapers National University. The traditionalin Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang News, Luang cultural practices of Long Lan and its richPrabang TV and Radio, Cultivation Office and natural forest also attracted popularForestry Office of Luang Prabang ProvincialDepartment of Agriculture and Forestry, PhuVao tourists, domestic and international, fromand PhuSy Five Stars Hotels. Luang Prabang causing Long Prabang villagers to set up regulations for receiving32 | P a g e
    • outsiders and train some villagers asprofessional tour guides. During 2008, key farmers in Xieng Da were also active in mobilizingEconomic and Community resources from both inside and outside theDevelopments in Xieng Da country to finance community development projects. As Mr Som Litand Nam Kha described it “In 2008, the village carried out a lot of work, especially theHouseholds in Xieng Da and Nam Kha mobilization of outside resources to buildalso faced a change from shifting communal constructions. I adopted whatcultivation to wet rice production and we had learned from CHESH Laos to planvegetable gardening. To prepare for this small scale projects for resourceschange a study tour was arranged to HEPA mobilization. The projects must indicatein Vietnam to participate in a training long-term goals, short-term goals and havecourse permaculture. Following the tour, a focus on the participation andMr Som Lit, a key farmer from Xieng Da, contribution of people, as well as cost-used seeds brought back from Vietnam to effectiveness after completion. I then askset up a model garden of 28 hectares for recognition by the district authority. Iplanted in elephant grass (for mulch) and made a project plan and submitted it to annitrogen fixing plants, from which he later aid program in Thailand to build a culturalproduced 10 tons of rice, 35 tons of maize, house. After reviewing the proposal, theyand 5 tons of garlic. He then offered seeds agreed to support it with 10 million Kip,of elephant grass and nitrogen fixing plants with 12 million contributed voluntarily byto other farmers. Three households in villagers. The village also got a project worth 300 million kips approved for building a primary and secondary school.” The old school was replaces by spacious new classrooms, enough for study up to secondary school. A new house was also build for monks at the restored Xieng Da temple. By 2008, economic and community developments in Xieng Da had lifted the village off the Luang Prabang province’s list of ‘poverty villages’.Figure 17: Villagers borrow loan from the community development fund in Nam Notable improvements hadKha for investment in production (CHESH Lao, 2006) also been made in thenearby Phon Ngam village followed his economic situation in Nam Kha. Beforeexample. In Nam Kha, Mr Thang Phay 2002, over sixty per cent of the householdsbuilt a model farm combining vegetable in Nam Kha suffered food shortages ofgardening, fish pond, and animal raising from four to six months per year. By 2008which raised the income of his family to this had been reduced to around twenty perthe point where by the end of 2007 they cent of households with food shortage forcould buy a television set and a motorbike. around two months of the year. This33 | P a g e
    • achievement was the result of greater Management Board. Communityorganization of the villagers into different development funds were expended on‘interest groups’ for cropping, animal different interest groups, helping familieshusbandry, saving and credit, etc., and in difficulty, and community developmenttheir increased capacity due to activities.involvement in various study tours,practical training sessions, and Forest protectionexperimentation with network supportfrom Long Lan and Xieng Da villagers. By 2008 a number of key farmershad also become ‘community development T he most important area for strengthening customary law was in forest protection. The land and forest allocation in Long Lan in 2005 had empowered the villagers to take importantactors’ able to facilitate developmentactivities in other villages in farming, initiatives in terms of land–use planninganimal husbandry, savings and credit, and conflict resolution in accordance withtraditional textile handicrafts, and their own cutomary law. There remained,infrastructure. Mr Som Lit, from Xieng Da however, the serious challenge of how tofacilitated the building of over 23 implement this law in relation to the 12kilometres of internal road in neighbouring bordering villages that shared Long Lan’sPheen and Kiu Ha villages using a forest resources. In October 2006, Longparticipatory approach learnt from CHESH Lan organized training in forestLao over the previous eight years. management for people within Long Lan and from its surrounging 12 villages forStrengthening the network on the creation of a customary law network in watershed and forest management. Forestsavings and credit management teams were then set up to patrol and protect the forest. Long Lan wasA n increase in development projects also being developing as a live forum for created an increased need for policy makers, government authorities, finance, and in February 2007, development workers, researchers andvillagers from the three villages took part media interested in the connection betweenin consultations on how to transfer their cultural tradition and sustainable naturalsavings and credit group loans into resource management.community development funds. From2002 to 2005, the villagers had learnt skills However, conflicts over land usein bookkeeping and household economic between bordering villages continued tomanagement via savings and credit groups. arise, and in March 2007, CHESH LaoCHESH Laos had supported revolving staff and elders of Long Lan met to discussfunds for households in the three villages ways of settling disputes equitably andwith 15 million kip for Xieng Da and Nam according to customary law. Over a periodKha and 20 million Kip for Long Lan. of six month a process was evolved. InVillagers now sought to transform these May, a conflict arose when villagers fromrevolving loans into community Nam Bo and Tin Pha villages in Phon Xaydevelopment funds to meet the higher district appropriated land and forest ofneeds of different community based Long Lan for rubber plantation andinterest groups such as herbal medicines, agricultural cultivation. CHESH Lao staffhandicrafts, animal husbandry, ecological met with Luang Prabang authorities tofarming, etc. The funds were built up from discuss possible solutions. The authoritiesinterest on revolving loans, profits from then conducted a field survey and helddifferent interest groups, and other discussion in the field with villagers fromsources, and managed by the Village34 | P a g e
    • both villages. In August, authorities of Long Lan. This was evident in theirLuang Prabang and Phon Xay districts, handling of further conflicts. When Bo Hevillage leaders, elders, and 35 villagers of villagers cleared a field and took land ofNam Bo and Long Lan met to solve the Long Lan containing the tomb of Mrs Moconflict. Long Lan villagers agreed to hand Mua’s late husband, the case was reportedover 173 hectares of land to Nam Bo and to Mr Xay Khu Zang and other villageTin Pha in return for them agreeing to leaders. Mr Xay Khu ruled that “Onefollow the customary law of Long Lan in should be fined not merely for destroyingtheir use of that land. By involving all the forest; the other thing is damagingstakeholders -villagers fromneighbouring villages,and authorities ofneigbouring districts -and by discussing thesituation in the field, apeaceful solution wasfound which was inaccordance with boththe customary andstate law. In December2007, another form ofconflict arose, thistime within Long Lanitself. It wasdiscovered that the Figure 18: Community meeting in Long Lan for setting up a regulation in forest protectionLeadership Board of (CHESH Lao, 2007)Long Lan had signed a contract with a another’s tomb. If we apply state laws forbusinessman to lease 50 hectares of Long this case, they will be less afraid, so weLan forest for 30 years to grow coffee. need to apply our own customs. In thisThis was seen by other villagers and case that family has to pay at least one pigvillage elders as a bad decision: one that of 100 kg or a cow to the loser to worshipwould have a negative impact on the spirits so that spirits would protect thattraditional values and customary laws of family and the whole community”. ThisLong Lan. There was a strong reaction kind of punishment had existed for a longwhich eventuated in the election of a new time in Hmong customary law, but it hadLeadership Board in March 2008. One of not been practiced for a long time, and itsthe first actions of the new Board was to application to outsiders was estremely rare.work with the Luang Prabang district However, the elders and villagers of Longauthorities to secure the land in question Lan determined to apply it in this case toby having it allocated to the village herbal maintain their customary law andmedicine group for their exclusive use and simultaneously prevent outsiders frommanagement. This effectively secured the destroying the forest by making them moreland from outside encroachment. careful if they want access to it. In another Under the new leadership there wasa stronger commitment to customary law incident, villagers from Koc Van and tree fibre without Long Lan village’svillage entered the forest to collect herbs consent. Long Lan leaders organized a35 | P a g e
    • village security team to catch 5 violators measuring is proactively undertaken by thewith 30 sacks of herbs and fibre and took villagers. In the past no one among thethem to the village. Then the village head, villagers dared to write on the board andafter reading statutory forest laws and present in front of people; nowadays theycommunity forest regulations said, do it confidently".“Applying statutory laws, we would fineyou 50,000 kip for the first violation; butaccording to village regulations, the fine The System of Traditionalshould be 200,000 kip. But because we are and Governmentneighbours and friends, we will apply a Leadershipfine of 100,000 kip and let you take those The village formal leadershipherbs and fibre back home. But please do system, consisting of Villagenot repeat this. If you want to collect herbs Head, two Vice Heads, Chairfor illness treatment, you need to first ask of the Village Women’sus for consent.” The violators had to abide Union, Chair of the Villageby the Long Lan leaders’ decision. Youth Union, and Head, Deputy and six members of These actions were unprecedented the Village Fatherland Front,and were seen as a breakthrough in forest united with the traditionalmanagement practice. In the past, if forest village elders. Anythingor land violations were discovered, the related to the community theyvillage leaders simply reported it to the all ask for advices of thedistrict authorities and waited for their traditional village leaders -resolution. However, district authorties Mr.Khay Xu Zang and Mreither did not go to the village or their Cho Xy Zang. Coalition andresolution was too late and ineffective. But unity between the formal andthis had now been changed by the traditional village leadersresolution of village leaders to act strongly helped to resolve manyand independently out of community challenges related toconcern to protect their forest and maintaining the traditionalcustomary laws, not only to preserve their values and effectivelivelihood and traditional social structure, management of naturalbut also to not cause unrest for their resources.ancestors’ spirits. When asked who makes decisions in the Mr.Xin Kham, on the technical community, and howstaff of Luang Prabang district who had differences are resolved, Mrworked on the Long Lan on land allocation Xay Khu Zang answered,remarked on this change of attitude in the “Imagine Long Lan is a smallvillage brought about by the change in country. Therefore, Long Lanleadership: "Long Lan leaders are now must have its regulations tovery strong, because they have adjust and harmonize all actsorganizational skill and respect. In the past and behaviours of villageI had to initiate village meeting, and they members”. He then gave aaccepted everything things I said. long description of the villageNowadays village leaders take the role of organisation:leadership. Previously it was difficult to “Long Lan has its ownmobilize villagers, but now I do not do community structure led byanything except writing and calculating, the formal village leaders,because defining land borders and including village head,36 | P a g e
    • deputy, and representatives of example, if someone cuts one mass organizations such as tree, one has to re-plant 3 Fatherland Front, Youth, and trees, not including paying a Women’s Unions, etc. cash penalty. Moreover, Long Lan has the Most of the Elder Council to advise the households are in compliance formal village leadership in with the terms of the village all activities. Under the Elder regulations; for example Council are 6 clans. This regulations of not drinking structure ensures participation and smoking in village. At the of all families and clans in beginning, some people, decisions related to common especially the young did not activities. comply. Then, elders in the To maintain the village discussed and agreed unique values of Long Lan, to not drink alcohol or smoke we set up a system of in weddings and funerals. The customary law. Our law young saw their grand-fathers reflects both education and and fathers, then give up all punishment. For example, if bad habits. any families want to live The customary law is permanently in the village, not fixable. It can be changed they must first learn Long to suit specific condition. Lan customary law. If they While I was head of Long agree to comply with the law, Lan region, I witnessed 5 they are allowed for times of change in the settlement. If in ten years of customary law relating to living in Long Lan they do wedding customs. Previously, not violate the law and have the boys must prepare 18 good relations with villagers, ingots of silver or 1 pig with then they are allowed to the length of 6 spans (instead continue to live in the village. of 1 ingot) to pay as wedding Moreover, they are allowed to offerings to the girl’s family. collect wood, bamboo from However, poor families or the community productive orphaned youths did not have forest for housing. If not, they enough wedding offerings for have to leave the community. marrying a wife. Because of In general, our that, many youths had self- customary laws are mainly to poisoned. Therefore, I educate and awaken people. organized a meeting with the Therefore, when someone village Elder Council to solve violates the customary law, that situation. After 5 times of they are at first educated by change, the wedding offerings the clan head; after that, the are now only 1 million Kip, village Elder Council and 10 litres of wine, and 1 pig formal village leadership. If with the length of 6 spans. there is no change in their Indeed, there is no need to behaviour, they must be fined regulate such wedding by the village regulation or offerings. However, many sent to the higher levels of cases after getting marry, the authority for resolution. For husband violated his wife. So37 | P a g e
    • that, we still maintain this their needs for firewood and house- regulation just as the building increase, and as agricultural land guarantee. is taken up by expanding rubber The fact is that the plantations, these surrounding village will traditional Long Lan feel pressure to move deeper into the Long regulation can only be applied Lan forest for cultivation. to insiders. Many outsiders do not follow these regulations. The solution to these pressures was Therefore, in 2005 we for Long Lan to organise a traditional ‘No recommended that the district Song’ ceremony - a unique Hmong authority approve our ceremony where representatives of Hmong customary law in society in a particular area assemble to management and use of forest discuss and decide on adjustments to their resources after the land customary laws governing such issues as allocation supported by the cultural identity, community governance, CHESH Laos Program. The and natural resource management. ‘No community regulation Song’ literally means ‘community sharing incorporates village norms food and commitment’. It is a vow and government laws. ceremony that takes place over two days Therefore, it can apply to and serves to consolidate and strengthen both Long Lan people and customary laws and traditions. In order to outsiders. The regulations consolidate the customary law of Long have defined the right of the Lan, formal and traditional village leaders, village to arrest and punish in cooperation with the Hmong acts of violating our forest Association of Luang Prabang district, and land. It just shows the organized the traditional ceremony of ‘No education and use of a Song’ for the 22 Hmong villages of Luang penalty. Our forests are Prabang district in April 2009. protected well today because of the community regulations.” ‘No Song’ ‘No Song’ is a customary Customary law based forest Hmong ceremony formanagement in Long Lan became a model obtaining a unifiedfor community based natural resource commitment among Hmongmanagement which the Lao Ministry of living in a particularAgriculture and Forestry now want to see geographic area to follow aexpanded to other villages. Long Lan has common set of customaryalso become a focus for visits from ethnic regulations applying to suchminorities both inside and outside the things as funerals, marriages,province and from other countries, and by forest protection, villageresearchers, academics and development boundaries, cultivation,organisations.Challenges to the livestock, security, moralpreservation of the Long Land forest still norms, and mutual assistance.remain however, particularly from private It is a form of congress wherecompanies wishing to rent forest land for Hmong from a particularcash crop plantations (i.e. coffee and geographic area periodicallyrubber) and from surrounding villages meet to review and revisewhose own forest land is degraded and customary regulations thatwho are short of land for cultivation. As time and changing38 | P a g e
    • circumstances may have understanding of Hmong and rendered no longer adequate. other cultures. At the Traditionally, all elders, clan ceremony, representatives of and village leaders and elders and clan leaders from respected individuals in a all the villages in the area will certain geographical area raise issues with the leader for gather for ‘No Song’, but discussion and consideration. these days representatives of After discussion and local authorities, and state agreement, every participant sponsored ‘mass will join in a ceremony of organizations’ - Fatherland promise and worship to the Front, Women’s Union and various spirits that support Youth Union - are also community in solidarity, invited to attend. There is no health, weather, and crops, regular time fixed for No etc. Whatever is agreed and Song, rather, it is held promised in ‘No Song’ no whenever different represented person or communities or clans find community is entitled to existing regulations need change. Changes are accepted adjusting. only via another ‘No Song’ The leader of ‘No ceremony. If a certain village Song’ is also the leader of or individual violates the Hmong in a certain area. He ceremonial promise they will should be respected, able to be fined according to the fines persuade, and have a good set at the ceremony. The ‘No Song’ ceremony was held Technology Association (VUSTA) andin the community herbal forest and Vietnam Multi-media Corporation (VTC))attending by 74 representatives of the 22 and the network of ethnic minority inHmong villages in Luang Prabang district Vietnam. All were called by CHESH Laoand 130 people of Long Lan. Also present to witness the event. After the ceremony,were 55 representatives of provincial representatives of the 22 Hmong villagesgovernment departments; 9 representatives in Luang Prabang district met to discussof research institutions (Institute of Social unified commitments to implementStudies, Chiang Mai University, customary law regulationsgoverningThailand)and networks of ethnic minorities funerals, weddings, New Yearin Thailand; and 30 delegates representing celebrations, and the customary terms ofthe Vietnamese government (Legislative management and use of forests andDepartment of Vietnamese Government agricultural land of Long Lan recognizedOffice, Vietnamese Embassy to Laos, by the district authorities in 2006.Vietnam Union of Scientific and39 | P a g e
    • It had been 23 years since the last government authorities at provincial and‘No Song’ ceremony had been held in district levels. This gave the communityLuang Prabang District, and Mr. Xay Xua confidence to follow their commitments.Ly Ho, Deputy of Luang Prabang Hmong For CHESH it was a landmark indicator ofFigure 19: Women and Children in Long Lan village (CHESH Lao, 2006)Association, said that “Thanks to supports success in their ten years of working forof the CHESH Laos Program, we community development based on culturalsuccessfully held the traditional ceremony. identity. It established socially andWe have wished for this event for a long politically the status of Long Lantime, but it did not happened. This time, all customary law as the governing instrumentrepresentatives of 22 villages were present of forest protection in Long Lan.and agreed with the sense ofconstructiveness. Everyone is very excited The Widening Contextbecause the traditional institution ofHmong in Luang Prabang is unified andcommitted to follow”. The ceremonyconfirmed the commitment of the LongLan people to maintaining their traditionalcustoms as well as effectively implement T o understand the broader significance of CHESH Lao’s work it is necessary to see it as part of a broader organizational structure, including TEW and CIRD. All three organizationsnatural resource management on the basis shared the same principles and cooperatedof the customary law, and through No in working with key farmers in differentSong this commitment was spread to 690 areas to develop interest groups, linkingother Hmong households (over 10,000 them into action networks spanningpeople) in 22 villages in Luang Prabang different provinces of Vietnam, and nowdistrict. A particular achievement of this Laos. In June 2006 a major change wasNo Song ceremony was the recognition implemented in this organizationalthat it gained for Hmong customary law by40 | P a g e
    • structure creating a new context for natural resource management and theCHESH Lao’s work. TEW, CIRD, and production and trading of traditionalCHESH merged into an Independent products of ethnic minorities - herbalScientific Organization called Social medicines, handicrafts, and organic farmPolicy Ecology Research Institute produce - in an ecologically sustainable(SPERI). This merger was designed to way.match the increased organizationalcapacity and new needs of the expanding Six themes emerged from theKey Farmer Network. discussions for network action: 1) Customary Law in Community From May 2005 to May 2006, a Governance and Management of Naturalseries of workshops and discussions had Resources; 2) Community Ownership ofbeen held among the approximately 4000 Spirit Forest and Bio-Cultural Diversity; 3)key-farmers of the TEW/CIRD/CHESH Eco-Farming Knowledge for SustainableKey Farmer Network. There it was Land Use Planning and Livelihooddecided that, after 10 years of Security; 4) Herbal Medicinal Wisdom fordevelopment, the Key Farmer Network Community Healthcare and Bio-diversitywas now able to organize and implement Preservation; 5) Women’s Wisdom inmany community development activities Natural Dying and Embroidery of Textilethemselves. This meant that Handicrafts; 6) Farmer Field School forTEW/CIRD/CHESH could now move Teaching by Learning, Learning by Doingaway from direct project facilitation to towards Leadership in Democratizationfocus more upon research and lobbying on and Decentralization.issues of social, economic and politicalconcern to ethnic minorities, such as land Three or four co-ordinators fromrights and ethnic minority policy, and different geographical regions were electedwork toward the development of a Civil for each ‘thematic network’. They wouldSociety within which grassroots come together every three or so months toorganisations such as the Key farmer set up objectives, strategic plans andNetwork could obtain legal status. As a priorities for action. SPERI staff wouldresult of these discussions, the Key Farmer then review these plans and base their ownNetwork was transformed into Mekong planning on them, sometimes coming upCommunity Networking and Ecological with new ideas and activities, or advice onTrading (MECO-ECOTRA). how to best implement the plan. The objective was for SPERI and MECO- The new organizational structure ECOTRA to work together as partners towas designed to upgrade the networking lobby for rights to land and theamong minority Key Farmers from the decentralization of land use rights tonational to regional level, and facilitate individuals, households, and communitiescollective action in the whole Mekong so they could practice organic farming,region to deal more effectively with the and raise awareness of organic farmnew challenges to the maintenance of products to create a market for ecologicaltraditional culture and protection of the trading. The long term goal was for ethnicnatural environment arising from the minority communities to be recognized asdeveloping market economy. MECO- equal socio-economic and political playersECOTRA was to focus on the preservation in society.of cultural values and customary law in41 | P a g e
    • Farmer Field School17 for the training of young ethnic minority leadership - delegates proposed that the CHESH Lao Program establish a similar facility in Laos. Eventually, Long Lan Village was decided upon as the ideal site for such a facility and in 2010 a project was approved to establish a Farmer Field School in Long Lan. A second project approved in 2010 was for “Enriching Customary Law in Forest Management and Land Use Planning” in Den Xa Vang and Phon Xa Vat, two villages with mixed Khmu and Hmong populations bordering Long Lan. It had early been recognized that if the forests of Long Lan were to be preserved, some steps would have to be taken to secure the livelihoods of those villages surrounding Long Lan who were also dependent on access to the resource. In a survey of the 12 villages bordering Long Lan, Den Xa Vang and Phon Xa Vat were identified as the two villages most in need of assistance in securing their livelihood.They were therefore chosen for the project. The two villages involved in the earlier phases of the CHESH Lao Program, Xieng Da and Nam Kha, wereFigure 20: The Land Spirit of Laos (CHESH Lao, 2004) now capable of pursuing their own Several aspects of the CHESH Lao development plans and ceased to be the Program in its second and third phases object of specific CHESH Lao projects. contributed to and fitted this new However, key farmers from these two approach. The land and forest allocation villages, such as Mr Som Lit and Thoong and the promulgation of customary law Phay were now active in the on-going regulations on community government and CHESH Lao projects in Long Lan, Den Xa natural resource management in Long Lan Vang and Phon Xa Vat as members of the was an example of actions fitting within CHESH Lao Advisory Board and the new thematic networks 1) and 2). The growing MECO-ECOTRA. and marketing of organic vegetable in Long Lan was an example of network 3). During the third phase of the CHESH Lao Program (2006-2009) important development were made in herbal medicinal and textile handicraft 17 networking. These were examples of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) are aimed at ethnic minority youth who are inspired to practice their network action under themes 4) and 5). own traditions. Young ethnic minority students Finally, after a study tour to Vietnam in gain experience through practice and study at small 2009 during which farmers visited the model farms at the FFS. It is hoped that some of Human Ecology Practice Area (HEPA) - a these students will become future leaders in their own communities and demonstrators of a more sustainable and secure vision of society. 42 | P a g e
    • References - Cohen, T.P. and C. Lyttleton, 2008. The Akha of Northwest Laos: Modernity and- Chambers, R. 1994.The Origins and Social Suffering, in P. Leepreecha, et alPractice of Participatory Rural Appraisal, Challenging the Limits: IndigenousWorld Development 22(7):953-969 peoples of the Mekong Region, Chiang- CHESH, 1999, Proposal: 1999-2000 Mai: Mekong PressCooperation Programme between CHESH - SPERI, 2007.Narrative Report. Anand Lao government and Village Partners Applied Research on Meco-Ecotra,in Luang Prabang province, Lao PDR, October 31.Hanoi, October 6. - CHESH, 2008. Yearly Narrative Report,- CHESH, 2002, Report on “The pilot July 2007-2008research on community development basedon cultural identity of long lan village, - CHESH, 2009. Lessons of pilot onluang Prabang district and Xieng da village community development approach basednambac district luanag Prabang province, on cultural identity of H’mong, Lao Lumlao PDR” From January 2000 to June 2002 and Khmu groups in Luang Prabang, Laos,period, Lao PDR, June. Luang Prabang- CHESH, 2003, Progress report: CHESH - Ducourtieux, O. J-R Laffort and S,program in the period from January to Sacklokhan 2005. Land Policy andDecember 2002, Hanoi, March. Practices in Laos, Development and Change, 36 (3): 499-526- CHESH, 2002, Project proposal, StrengthCHESH Lao program to facilitate key - Fujita,Y. and K. Phanvilay 2008. Landfarmer network on sustainable community and Forest Allocation in Lao People’sdevelopment in Long Lan, Xieng Da and republic, Society and Natural Resources,Nam Kha villages, Luang Prabang 21: 120-133Province, Vientiane July 2002 - SPERI, 2009.Meco-Ecotra Program, June- CHESH, 2004, Progress Report, SPERI, 2010. Proposal: Long LanStrengthen CHESH program in Laos to Farmers’ Field School: A Regional Modelfacilitate Key farmer network on for Sustainable Community Co-sustainable community development in Management of Natural Resources, LuangLong Lan, Xieng Da and Nam Kha Prabangvillages, Luang Prabang Province, Lao -SPERI, 2010. Enriching Customary LawPDR, From January to December 2003. in Forest Management and Land UseLao PDR, May 2004 Planning: PhonXa Vat, Den XaVang- CHESH, 2005, Progress Report on villages in the ‘Phu Sung’ watershed areasCHESH-Laos Program, January 2003 – in Luang Prabang district, Luang PrabangDecember 2004. May, 2005 province, Lao PDR, Luang Prabang- CHESH, 2006, Program Evaluation - Vandenhende, V., “Nature’s Spirit”,Report (January 2003 to December 2005) - unpublished manuscriptStrengthening Capacity of CHESH-Lao in - Vandergeest, P. 2003. Land to SomeFacilitating Key Farmer Network in Tillers: development induced displacementSustainable Community Development, in Laos, International Social ScienceLuang Prabang, June Journal, 55 (1): 47-5643 | P a g e