The “Slippage” Implementation of the Forest Policy by
Local Officials: A Case Study of the Protected Areas of Savannakhet
Forest Conservation Project
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Recently, the concept of decentralization has been introduced lots of Southeast Asian Countries. In the forestry section of Laos, it has been also shown not only the re-organization of the administration system such as power transfer of lower authority, but also policy re-forming such as land and forest allocation program.
An important and progressive part of the forest policy regime in Laos is its land and forest allocation program started in 1996, which contains critical elements that delegate the rights of land and forest use to local people. This study aims to analyze the gap between the initial concept of the program and its actual implementation by local forestry officials and discuss several issues with the program that need addressing in order for it to function more effectively.
A case study was done by conducting interviews, gathering data, and doing field observation in the protected areas of Savannakhet Province, which is in the southern part of the country.
After introduction of the land and forest allocation program in the study village, it appears that several non-fulfillments by local people, i.e. land-use management designations, recognition of boundaries between villages and the conversion of land use from swidden fields to paddy fields can be seen. Local officials have not control these affirmatively. It was shown that the lack of man-power, insufficient budget for implementation and lack of capacity building by local officials may lead to them. By changing the viewpoint, however, it appears that local forestry officials carry out the “slippage” way for keeping the livelihood of local people. Although local people do not follow the regulation, land-use pressures on the land and forests in the study area are still relatively small because of the local people’s sustainable land- and forest-use practices as well as enough land for cultivation. Therefore, local official do not need to control them all.
National policies such as land and forest allocation program should been fixed strictly. However, the real land and forest use in village have various ways. Therefore, implementation of the policy by local officials should need the flexibility, which includes “slippage” way.