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

  1. 1. 2012Cultural Identity, Network Action, and Customary Law Editor: Dr. Keith Barber CENTER FOR HUMAN ECOLOGY STUDIES OF HIGHLANDS - CHESH CHESH Lao Program (1999-2009)
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. 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
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. 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

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