Additional local manpower improves protected area management effectiveness

Full Solution
Village rangers in action in Hin Nam No National Proctected Area
GIZ Hin Nam No Project

A management unit and co-management structures were set-up involving 244 people from multiple groups of stakeholders (managing the Hin Nam No National Protected Area in Lao PDR). Earlier only 9-12 people worked on the management of the site of 82,000 hectares. Through the additional manpower and knowledge by local villagers, the total management effectiveness score of Hin Nam No NPA increased by 13% in two years. The solution was upscaled in other areas in Laos by the local organisation AFC.

Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty

lack of law enforcement, knowledge, skills and an insufficient budget make PA management in Laos like a paper park approach due to insufficient budget and human resource allocation by government. Also Hin Nam No has no dedicated management unit with full time staff available and responsibilities are divided over various departments. There is lack of information, law enforcement, capacity, knowledge and skills to effectively manage the PA and monitoring thereof.


Protected Area management authority and surrounding villagers with customary rights

Scale of implementation
Temperate evergreen forest
Indigenous people
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Policy and legislation, Incentives and Subsidies
Khammouane Province, Laos
Southeast Asia
Summary of the process

The set-up of the management structure and the drafting of terms of references for the various units by the PA authority helped in the description of the tasks to be done to effectively manage the Hin Nam No PA. As the PA authority could only allocate 2-3 district officials per unit, it became clear that certain tasks needed to be delegated to the local people. This was also confirmed through the governance baseline assessment. So the need for co-management came from the PA authorities and the local people were eager to accept, as they participated in the drafting of co-management agreements outlining clear incentives for their participation, based on customary rights over certain areas. Capacity development of PA authority and villagers enabled them to better execute their tasks. The official endorsement of the vertically coordinated management structure and the co-management agreements by the district governor has legitimized the approach. The 13% increase in management effectiveness after two years has convinced the stakeholders to continue with this partnership. AFC implemented parts of the model in other areas of Laos and replicated certain building blocks by using training materials explaining building blocks in detail.

Building Blocks
Participatory zonation using customary rights and knowledge
The Lao law requires zonation inside National Protected Areas to identify Total Protected Zones (TPZ) for protection of biodiversity and to regulate limited access and use to Controlled Use Zones (CUZ). Participatory zonation based on local knowledge and existing customary rights is an essential tool for local communities to engage in co-management. In order to divide the work between the 19 villages surrounding the park it was necessary to clarify which area should be monitored and used by which village and boundaries were determined based on used trails and customary rights of villages. Trail mapping and data collection on important features, biodiversity and threats was done by village rangers. Based on the trail maps produced, villagers were asked to define areas they need for collecting NTFPs and aquatic products. They were also asked to define areas which are inaccessible and areas that should be left alone to protect wildlife. In total the villages which control land inside the HNN NPA propose 87% of the area to be TPZ and 13% as CUZ.
Enabling factors
Respect for knowledge and interests of guardian villages by hosting well facilitated meetings • District officers were capacitated to listen and value local knowledge and interests • GIS support provided clear maps based on the information gathered by the villagers. Both parties learned to visualize and share knowledge and decisions based on maps and local names that can be understood by both parties (villagers and protected area authorities)
Lesson learned
The process of participatory mapping of trails and the subsequent selection of key trails for regular monitoring led to a clear agreement on which area should be monitored by which village. This led to a de-facto delineation of village areas of responsibility within the Hin Nam No PA. The basic rules and regulations governing the access and use of the proposed TPZ and CUZ are stipulated in the Forestry Law and in the co-management agreements that have been approved by the District Governor of Bualapha. The CUZ can be used by the villagers for subsistence purposes according to their customary rights. More discussions are needed to elaborate these use rules in more detail in the future to prevent unsustainable use by villagers and outsiders. Elderly people have important knowledge and connectedness, especially resulting from the Ho Chi Min War when many people had to hide in caves for a period of 9 years.
Local people as additional PA management manpower
The approach aims at involving local villagers actively in the management of the park due to their willingness and availability to participate and the limitation of resources provided by the government. In total there are 96 elected co-management committee members divided over 19 villages and 5 village clusters involved in participatory planning and reporting. Another key strategy is paying village rangers for making regular trips into the park to record wildlife sightings and threats and to become involved in patrolling for law enforcement. Payment fee for biodiversity monitoring and patrolling was agreed through negotiations and based on a fair compensation for the hard and dangerous work of climbing in the mountains. A team of 77 villager rangers has been trained in the use of GPS equipment and in the recording of sightings in coded booklets. All data and information from the field are inserted into SMART system. There are furthermore 35 households in 4 villages involved in the provision of eco-tourism services such as guiding, boatmen, guesthouse and home-stays. Village service providers have been trained to provide good services.
Enabling factors
Availability and willingness of people to participate as they don’t have so many alternatives (land use options are limited in this area due to the ruggedness of the limestone formation and the many unexploded ordnance (weapons) littering the area which are limiting agriculture options or options for land transformation). Available local knowledge of the area in wildlife detection; use of natural resources; survival; etc. Training needs assessment to inform training of staff and villagers
Lesson learned
Local part-time village rangers seem to be more effective compared to full-time government rangers. This was demonstrated by an increase in the area covered for patrolling and biodiversity monitoring and some successful law enforcement interventions. Furthermore, they are more effective for the following reasons: • Rely on their own food supply as they have their rice fields and farming activities. • Located close to the area and can act quickly, so there is no need to establish separate ranger stations. • Know if there are trespassers as they live next to the area they manage. The system of making use of local tourism service guides also works as it is an additional income for the people living next to the area which they know very well. Given the limited number of tourists, it is important that the village tourism service providers don’t rely solely on tourism income for their livelihoods.
Governance assessment through participatory consultation
A governance baseline assessment was implemented in February 2014 at village, village cluster, district and provincial level to collect data on the governance and management of the Hin Nam No NA so far. This participatory exercise gave a platform to voice disappointment and problems and it gave ideas on the direction and strategic vision of the Hin Nam No PA by bringing various stakeholders together. The governance baseline assessment also included an exercise of measuring management effectiveness and good governance based on a self-assessment method developed by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (Mardiastuti et al. 2013) and a questionnaire developed by the Hin Nam No project and based on annex 3 of the IUCN publication “Governance of Protected Areas” (Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2013).
Enabling factors
Face-to-face dialogue. Creation of common understanding and trust building in meetings between state and non-state stakeholders. Solid, transparent and well-documented process, which cannot be ignored by local authorities as high number of people and stakeholders involved. Facilitation by neutral facilitator bringing the parties together. Strong leadership by decision makers at national; provincial and district level.
Lesson learned
The methods used for measuring management effectiveness and good governance are relatively easy and cost-effective and therefore suitable for annual repetition. The methodology fits well in the Lao context. Discussions around each indicator question are as valid as the final monitoring result. The methodology of yearly self-assessments in various groups is an easy way of social monitoring in which qualitative indicators can be quantified and compared over time. The tools are suitable for further action planning by identifying first of all the areas in which an improvement can be relatively easily obtained. The limited resources are mainly allocated to these areas instead of focusing on areas in which the protected area has limited potential for change. The results can also be easily presented to outside stakeholders to try to improve on areas that are beyond the influence of the park management.
Setting up a vertically coordinated management structure
The management structure of the Hin Nam No PA and its six technical units was set-up in 2013 with the help of the National University of Laos. Draft Terms of Reference were developed for each unit and tasks to be delegated to villagers were identified. After a piloting phase, it will be important to officially approve the structure. At village level, villagers formed democratically elected village co-management committees (VCMC) and village cluster co-management committees (VCCMC), who are mandated officially to protect and manage natural resources via official agreements. At district level, a district co-management committee (DCMC) brings together government authorities and stakeholders mainly from district level as well as members from village cluster level. Bottom-up, villages report to village cluster level, which thereon report to higher level. Top-down, strategic decisions made at higher levels take the inputs of village levels into account and measurements to be implemented are communicated back to the operational levels. This process ensures that all stakeholders are able to articulate their needs and participate in decision-making.
Enabling factors
Existing governance baseline assessment Separation of management structure (day-to-day) and governance structure (steering; overview); Endorsement of co-management committees by district governor (leadership) Use of National University of Laos and neutral facilitator in setting up the structure.
Lesson learned
Hin Nam No management divided tasks between a general management and six technical units which has increased management effectiveness. District officers do their own activity planning, reporting and are responsible for all financial transactions, and not the project advisers. This has increased ownership of the PA authority. Importance to democratically elect co-management committees at lower levels based on selection criteria. Important that the institutional set-up is officially recognized (legitimacy) by the local authority. Leadership to set-up institutional design from PA authority with help of a strong neutral facilitator. Upon recommendation of national and provincial level, the leadership function is officially delegated to district. Balance between the need to involve people who are doing the work in the forest (rangers) and the need to involve people who can validate decisions (village heads).
Co-management agreements
The co-management agreements were drafted in facilitated village meetings with the help of a neutral facilitator by the first 9 villages that were setting-up village co-management committees. Based on the first participatory draft agreements the local authorities decided do generate one uniform co-management agreement in the form of a district by-law. As differences between the 9 proposed agreements were small, a compromise was found during a workshop held in July 2014 and chaired by the vice-district governor. The proposed consensus document coming out of this meeting was also presented to the 10 villages that created their village co-management committees later in 2014. Furthermore, upon request by the local authorities the document went through several meetings and due diligence processes involving legal government offices before it was officially approved by the District Governor. The final version was disseminated to all 19 villages and also over the border in Vietnam to the protected area authorities and rangers of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National park.
Enabling factors
Agreements formulated in a participatory process with incentives for local stakeholders to participate, based on customary rights. Process considered to be fair as it was an open discussion in a public meeting Due diligence process by district governor to see if this is what the people want (100% confirmed) Due diligence process by district governor: documents were legally verified by relevant departments Official delegation for endorsement to District Governor by national + provincial level Official endorsement of legal district by-law by district governor.
Lesson learned
Implementation of law enforcement without endorsed agreements gave problems as the village rangers felt insecure/not safe in doing the job. Now the fines for poachers have been agreed upon via co-management agreements developed in a participatory manner. Due diligence process by district governor was lengthy but important as there is now clear leadership and ownership from the local authority and clear encouragement for local villagers to implement. As the protected area is located in only one district, the process went relatively fast as it is easier to approve a district by-law compared to higher level agreements/by-laws. Initial governance baseline assessment was important in giving direction on how to develop the agreements.
Upscaling of the model
AFC scaled up a model for communities to participate in protected area management developed with GIZ between 2013-2016 in the Hin Nam No NPA. AFC supported three civil society organizations to implement the model elsewhere, including through co-management training modules, national-level awareness raising, exchange visits to Hin Nam No, local capacity building and policy advocacy. There are now 21 officially approved village co-management agreements, covering 204,747 ha of village forests.
Enabling factors
Previous experience of AFC in governance of protected areas enabled the development of the Hin Nam No model and the upscaling elsewhere. AFC is local based and works widespread in Laos which enabled the upscaling beyond the often short life span of a project.
Lesson learned
Shared governance models take a long time to be developed and need continous support that often goes beyond the lifespan of a project. Therefore it is important for short-term projects to work from the start with local-based organisations to jointly develop models, implement them, and document the lessons learned. In this way the upscaling of so-called pilot projects of international organisations can be secured which is otherwise not possible within the lifespan of the project.

Species conservation: Village rangers are set up, trained and capable to work by themselves in patrolling and biodiversity monitoring. Number of wildlife sighted: 2561 (1844 indicator animals). A constant wildlife population and a decline in illegal activities (poaching, illegal logging) could be observed. Benefits for village service providers: 793.000 LAK (baseline) plus 8.8% (37% for women) additional monthly HH income from eco-tourism services for all involved households (35 HH in 4 villages). There is an increase from 465 visitors from the dry season (2013/14) to 2520 visitors in the dry season (2015/16). In 2015 a total of 110 trained village rangers walked 1523 km patrol covering 60% of the park. For this a cost-effective total of 12,000 US$ were paid to the village rangers. Improved management: Increase of 15% in Good Governance score and 13% higher Management Effectiveness score in 2016 compared to 2014. Co-management agreements have been participatory drafted for 19 villages and 5 village clusters and have been agreed and signed during a district follow-up. Thus park management tasks are officially delegated to the villagers of 19 villages. AFC supported three civil society organizations to implement the model elsewhere in Laos (an additional 21 officially approved village co-management agreements, covering 204,747 ha of village forests).

GIZ Hin Nam No Project
Hin Nam No rangers can arrest intruders by involving village militia
GIZ Hin Nam No Project

Since village rangers are regularly monitoring wildlife and threats inside the Hin Nam No park, arrests of poachers are becoming more frequent. On Monday 28 July 2014, a team of 8 villager rangers from Ban Dou village carried out their regular forest patrol, when they came across a team of five Vietnamese poachers in the Kuan Nong area. This location is at one day walking distance from the village and three days walking from the Vietnamese border. These poachers had a lot of motorcycle brake wire cables, which are a popular material to make traps as well as explosives and digging equipment. They were looking to dig for the roots of a valuable rosewood type of trees and expecting to trap monkeys and other wildlife to eat. The village rangers arrested the poachers, tied them up with their own wire cables and led them back to the village. The poachers were handed over to the border military station in Ban Dou who kept them for three days. Relevant authorities were called in and a meeting was held to judge the case. The judgment committee decided on a fine to the equivalent of US$3,000, considering that the poachers were caught in the act, but had not collected any illegal timber or wildlife that could be confiscated. The poachers were warned that they were lucky to get the case resolved at the village cluster level. If the case would have been transferred to the province level, the process would have been much longer and the fine at least three times higher. Relatives of the poachers on the Vietnamese side of the border were informed that the poachers were arrested and would only be released once this fine was paid. The relatives arrived within one day and paid the whole fine in cash. The poachers were then released and returned the same day to their hometown of Phong Nha in neighboring Quang Binh Province. The entire process took 4 days. The fine of $3,000 was distributed among the various law enforcement stakeholders. The village rangers who found and arrested the poachers were given a reward of $124 per arrested poacher, totaling $620. Another $200 was spent on the costs of feeding the rangers and their prisoners. The remaining sum of $2180 was divided equally between officials of the local village cluster of Ban Dou and the District Park Authority.

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