KAP Survey 2012 - Low environmental awareness in Laos
Study by MoNRE reveals gaps in environmental knowledge, attitudes and practices
MoNRE conducted a first-ever comprehensive environmental awareness survey among 1,200 villagers and 140 urban decision makers in Vientiane, Khammouane, Huaphan and Sayaboury in late 2012. Survey teams of MoNRE and NUoL staff conducted 1,340 interviews and 220 focus group discussions in 55 villages and four major Lao cities. These focused on what the respondents know, feel and do regarding climate change and the environment. Alarmingly, half of the respondents agreed to exploit the environment for satisfying human needs as they do not believe that the environment is in danger.
The major findings of the 2012, 2016 and 2019 KAP survey’s are reported in WebNews articles and complete final reports.
Specific knowledge about climate change was low or inconsistent, even among urban decision makers and opinion leaders. Villagers often attribute climate and environmental changes to their agricultural calendar and the natural resources their livelihood depends on. They noticed the loss of animal and plant species and expect the Lao government to protect forests, enforce environmental laws, protect animals and plants and adapt land use planning accordingly.
Many respondents attitudes revealed a careless attitude towards nature which is reflected in statements such as exploiting/destroying the environment is justified if it brings an economic benefit (48%), or it is all right to lose a species in order to satisfy your human needs (45%). When it comes to taking action respondents do not know what to do (83%), have no time (79%) or no money (60%). Villagers often refer to major environmental polluters such as industrial timber plantation concessionaires or mines. Some of the highest livelihood risks as perceived by respondents are related to climate change itself (63%), natural disasters (86%) or deforestation (76%). Man-made risks such as the use of pesticides (44%) or growing waste volumes (39%) range lower. Gender and age have hardly any effect on perceived environmental risks. Measures to solve environmental problems are predominantly seen in stricter enforcement of environmental laws (81%), and awareness raising at school (53%) or awareness raising through mass media (32%). People are willing to stop slash and burn practices as well as burning waste at home, and even to hunt less.
In general, urban respondents express less negative environmental practices than rural ones. The more educated and wealthy respondents are, the less they engage in practices that are potentially harmful to the environment, which confirms studies indicating that practices with potential negative environmental impacts are often consequences of structural poverty and the lack of access to information and education. Subsistence activities which are potentially harmful to the environment such as hunting or firewood collection reportedly play a minor role regarding time spent on activities benefitting the family. In terms of sustenance and food consumption practices, 60% of respondents have wild animal meat at least once a month or occasionally. Fish, predominantly supplied from rivers and lakes, is one of the major staples dished at least once a week. The forest products used in household are dominated by firewood (93%), food (90%) and fish (84%) followed by traditional medicine, timber for local use and traditional housing material.
KAP Survey 2016 - ProCEEd EEC shows modest success
In late 2016, ProCEEd and its partners were curious whether gains in knowledge, attitude or practice changes could be observed that could be attributed to the project. Therefore, ProCEEd conducted a follow-up survey in late 2016 and early 2017 conducted by survey teams of MoNRE and NUoL staff. At 216 focus group discussions and 1,413 individual interviews, this survey reached a similar number of respondents as the one in 2012. Results show that 84% of the respondents participated in ProCEEd’s environmental tours, and 64% consumed ProCEEd-supported media productions.
Major results of the survey are outlined in a WebNews article and in the final KAP Survey Report.
The climate change knowledge of respondents who participated intensively in environmental tours improved by 22% since 2012. Consumers of ProCEEd mass media products showed an improvement of 17%. The more often these products were consumed, the higher was the knowledge gained (up to 22%). Compared to 2012, respondents in 2016 felt better informed on environment issues. The number of tour participants who believe they have enough information on climate change increased from 4% to 19%. Similar results are found for deforestation and species extinction: 6% vs. 28% and 4% vs 20%.
The assumption that increased knowledge will necessarily lead to improved attitudes in the long run is weakly reflected in this survey - as in other such surveys worldwide. People participating at least once in ProCEEd’s environmental tours showed a 2% improvement of environmental attitudes in comparison to 2012. However, those who intensively participated in the tours showed an improvement of 5%. Environmental attitudes improved by 2% among consumers of mass media products. The more often these products were consumed, the higher was the improvement (up to 5%). This illustrates that four years of project duration is too short a period for achieving extensive attitude changes in general. But a look at specific questions revealed a differentiated picture. Compared to 2012, 18-21% more participants believed that species should not be lost to meet human needs. Audiences of ProCEEd media productions were increasingly recognizing environmental problems as a risk to their livelihoods, too, e.g. climate change + 26%, species of life + 24%, environmental pollution + 25%.
Despite increased environmental knowledge and improved attitudes the environmental practices with negative impact on the environment have increased by 46% since 2012. This was mostly driven by increased wildlife consumption and agricultural production practices. Respondents’ reliance on forests products also increased since 2012. This particularly concerns wildlife as a food source (+33%), timber for local use (+22%), and traditional medicines (+14%). One possible reason for this trend is that the data comparison from 2012 to 2016 shows a sharp increase in income and living standards. The majority of the people - 61% in 2016 vs. 24% in 2012 - "can buy expensive things like a refrigerator" or "all the things they want”. This may be an indicator that people are moving away from subsistence farming and are generating a higher income through timber, wildlife and forest product usage and sale which causes more pressure on natural resources.
KAP Survey 2019 - Citizens concerned about the environmental future their children will inherit
The third KAP Survey was outsourced to ACT Assist from Germany and EDC from Laos. A survey team of MoNRE, EDC, PONRE/DONRE and ProCEEd staff interviewed 422 villagers and 80 urban decision makers in Vientiane Capital and Khammouane Province in January 2019 on selected knowledge and attitude questions from the 2016 survey. Comparisons were made with the 2016 and 2012 KAP surveys. Data proved that MoNRE is the only focal point responsible for environmental education and awareness (EEA) in any ASEAN country that has repeatedly conducted environmental surveys - so far in 2012, 2016 and 2019. Survey respondents stated that the ProCEEd environmental bus turned out to be the most important and the most trusted source of information on the environment. They consistently put “protecting the environment” their second most important topic on a national policy agenda after “promoting education” in 2019, 2016 and 2012. Even though ProCEEd stopped supporting the weekly LNR and LNTV programs "Our Environment" in late 2017, these programs had a wider audience among respondents in 2019 than in 2016. This indicates that the programs, supported by ProCEEd between 2013 and 2017, gained in recipients, and that the environmental information offered is more widely accessed and accepted.
Surveys findings are reported in a WebNews article, and can be found in the complete KAP Survey Report.
Knowledge about a complex natural science issues such as climate change remained confused. Knowledge on wildlife revealed better results, namely a 6% increase from 2016 to 2019. Especially old, male respondents improved their hunting law knowledge over time since 2016. Almost 60% of the "I don’t know anything about hunting practices in Laos" answers, and similar variables, originated from a village cluster (N=98) of ethnic minorities with serious language and understanding difficulties that were not accounted for in the 2012 and 2016 surveys. Demographic strata show little variance in their knowledge-related responses. In 2019, men, urban respondents and educated ones do only slightly better than women, rural respondents and the ones with low education. Age, however, does not make a significant difference either. In comparison with 2016, rural respondents are catching up in 2019.
Respondents attitudes show they are : 43% in 2012, 56% in 2016 and 71% in 2019. An alarming proportion of steadily about 40% of respondents believes that the environment is not in danger. Utilitarian attitudes towards the environment were shared a lot more by urban than rural (72% vs 47%) and highly vs low-educated respondents (88% vs 50%), and a bit more by men and the young. On the other hand, the younger the respondents the more they put “protecting the environment” their second most important priority on a national policy agenda, and also 11% more women than men do so in 2019.