ADB, Japan to Help Lao PDR Strengthen Natural Resources Management

The Financial | 24/02/2009

The FINANCIAL -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Japan will support efforts by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) to protect the country's rich and diverse natural resources from commercial development.

ADB's Board of Directors approved a US$20 million Asian Development Fund grant for the Sustainable Natural Resource Management and Productivity Enhancement Project. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing a further $15 million and the Government of the Lao PDR $1.8 million. Technical assistance of $700,000 from the Government of Japan’s Special Fund, administered by ADB, will go into training resources to support the project.

According to ADB, the Lao PDR has abundant natural resources and a relatively small population, with over 80% of the people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Over the past few years the country has seen a surge of foreign investment in farms and plantations from neighboring countries keen to acquire rubber, sugar, and other agricultural commodities. Much of this development has resulted in deforestation and environmental damage because of poor land use management and weak institutions.

“Allowing large scale commercial development where there is a weak regulatory and enforcement framework is having an adverse social and environmental impact on local people’s livelihoods,” says Ahsan Tayyab, Senior Natural Resources Economist with ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

The project will increase the capacity of oversight agencies to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner that both protects the environment and supports the government’s push for rural livelihood opportunities. Among the initiatives planned are a land database and investment appraisal system that will help agencies make informed decisions on foreign investments in the agricultural sector. Noncommercial details of land concession awards will be posted on a public website to improve transparency, while the commercial terms will be kept in a confidential database for monitoring compliance.

“Improved national and provincial capabilities to make informed decisions about investment in the natural resource sector will contribute significantly to the government being able to take control of the land management process," says Mr. Tayyab. "This will enable it to protect the interests of local people who depend on the land for their livelihoods."

As agencies gain the skills and capacity to appraise investment opportunities, up to 70 subprojects will be carried out. These subprojects, ranging in value from $20,000 to $500,000 each, will be focused on areas such as road improvements, which support the government’s rural development goals, including greater food security, poverty reduction, and increased commercial opportunities.
Original source: The Financial

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