Environmental Tour to Khammouane Addressed Biodiversity

Twice a year, ProCEEd has its environmental bus and truck go on tour to Khammouane as one of the project's four target provinces.  Between

25-29 January 2016, the so-called village tour visited the southern Boualapha Distric, and during the first week of February, the DEQP team continued with the government tour in  Thakhek and Boualapha.


Within a week the team of PADETC and DEQP volunteers visited five villages and reached several hundred people with their non-formal environmental education activities. This time the program was all about "What is biodiversity?" The ProCEEd environmental tour provided information about what biodiversity means and how it can be protected. The program aimed at making villagers understand how human activities influence the physical environment around them and how they can use local resources more sustainably. The village tours always last one day per village with sessions at school in the morning, with adults in the afternoon and with the whole village in the evening.


The 82,000 ha of the Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area (NPA) feature limestone mountains with stone pinnacles and sharp rock formations. The forests on and in between the mountains are home to many plant and animal species and have a very special biodiversity. The villages in and around the NPA rely on natural resources for their daily livelihood. This includes hunting animals and collecting non-timber forest products such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms or greens from the forest. So, one of the questions that villagers often ask is "Why do we need a diversity of animal or plant species? Why isn't it enough to protect a few animals and plants?"

 After welcoming all students in front of the school, ProCEEd volunteers formed smaller age-specific groups of children. The activities with the youngest were focused on singing environmental songs, drawing pictures and getting to know different animals. The older ones were provided more information about biodiversity during interactive lessons about wildlife and ecosystems. Games that combined the newly learned information with a lot fun where played outside the classroom. All children enthusiastically and actively participated in the event. 

The adult villagers held discussions in three focus groups divided according to gender and age. The groups discussed hunting wildlife, catching fish and collecting forest products. In a chart, each group visualized what species they use how much and how the species' population changed over time. Villagers collected and discussed ideas why certain species decreased in particular locations. All groups presented their results to the plenary. The closing of the afternoon adult session was marked by the presentation of five posters with ten facts concerning biodiversity in Laos.


The evening was reserved for entertainment and fun. ProCEEd volunteers moderated a two-hour show which the villagers always regard the highlight of the day. Village children were involved in humorous games, quizzes and songs that made  the audience laugh. After showing a movie about environmental conservation,  a 30-minute theater play about biodiversity concluded the evening program. An elephant and a squirrel observe and discuss what villagers do to their environment. The villagers are frustrated about the decline of local wildlife and do not understand that their own behavior causes the changes they observe. Due to the creatively designed costumes and scenes taken from the daily life of a village, the theater play made the people understand that natural resources should be used more sustainably and that biological diversity should be protected. Ultimately, the audience learned that humans, too, are just another part of ecosystems and the interdependent elements of biological diversity which build and rely on each other for a sustained cycle of life.


During the first week of February, the DEQP team continued with the government tour in  Thakhek and Boualapha. Within five days,  ProCEEd informed officials from different departments including police, army, education, environment, health and others on biodiversity. A mix of discussions, presentation of factual posters, entertaining games and the mentioned theater play made the program interesting and attractive.


The kick-off event for the tour was held at the headquarters of the armed forces of Khammouane Province in Thakhek. After a round of introduction which facilitated a relaxed atmosphere, the volunteer team started each event by asking the audience three questions: “What is biodiversity?”, “What do we need biodiversity for?” and “What are the main threats for biodiversity?” The audience's answers were collected on cards, visualized on pin boards and discussed in plenary.


Next, the audience was divided into two working groups. Their task was to think about potential solutions to biodiversity threats in the region. Each group summarized its discussion results in plenary. The group work showed that people are already aware about certain threats and solutions. Main answers given were "Stop hunting protected animals", "Stop deforestation as a result of illegal logging activities", "Stop polluting the environment by burning or improper disposal of waste", "Stop slash and burn practices for extra fields but use assigned zones as new agricultural areas only".


A poster presentation explaining 10 facts on biodiversity gave a precise overview about the topic. The facts picked up points such as “Biodiversity means the variety of all forms of life” or “Human beings depend on ecosystem products.” The posters also outlined the cultural value of and the threats for biodiversity in Laos. For a better understanding each fact was divided into three bullet points. A round of questions and answers gave the audience an opportunity to clarify issues they had not immediately grasped.


The last point on the agenda of the government tour was the mentioned theatre play about natural resources featuring the elephant and the squirrel. The governmental tour it is an informative and entertaining event and a welcome alternation from daily work routines. The government officials appreciated the program and actively contributed their experiences and knowledge. This will hopefully lead to a better and deeper understanding of environmental protection needs and future pro-environment decisions.




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