Lao Wisdom on Land and Forest Use:
Rethinking Principles of Environmental Governance
Land and water resources management
Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Contemporary environmental policies and regulations are threatening people’s livelihood in Northern Laos, particularly of shifting cultivators. It is not solely because shifting cultivation is going to be banned. There seems to be a big gap in fundamental understanding on the concept of property right of land access to ecological resources such as land and forest. The outsiders including the government introduce simplified, mapped and fixed property right and access regulations, while people’s livelihood has been based on overlaid, temporal and spatially-buffered land and forest use. Although changes in environmental governance from an ad hoc basis to transparent ones may be a process of modernization, our experiences in the contemporary world told us that it was not always successful. Lao way of land and forest use may give us a clue to new solutions of harmonizing our life with nature.