Lively Discussions during Seminar on Environmental Education and Communication

More than 70 representatives from government, media, academic and civil society organizations joined the ProCEEd Seminar

"Environmental Education and Communication in Laos" in Vientiane on 5-6 September, 2017. Participants contributed their comments and ideas in six rounds of questions and answers related to the presentations delivered , and in two working group sessions at the end of the first and the second day of the seminar. In general, participants were impressed by the richness and depth of ProCEEd achievements  presented on the first day of the seminar. The project's success is embedded in a well-coordinated environmental education and communication strategy which relies on a solid foundation of facts, and thorough human capacity development measures. This has strengthened MoNRE/DEQP's role mandate in environmental protection related to ASEAN, the National Strategy on Environmental Education and Awareness, and  collaboration with partners at the provincial and district level.





In relation with the ProCEEd success story in combination with conclusions from case studies on the second day of the seminar, three comments were made by a number of people. One remark was the growing community of practice of people and organizations committed to environmental education and communication in Laos. Participants welcomed all efforts of sharing and distributing existing tools and materials. In this respect, ProCEEd III announced a related 3-volume manual comprising the organization of environmental bus tours, training courses, and tools to be published in late 2017, and intensified cooperation with teachers and schools.





The second comment often made was that working towards sustainable development needs a wide variety of different media, methods and materials that foster learning and communication processes: radio, TV and newspapers, posters, fact sheets and comic books, puppets, theater and songs, puzzles, games and exercises. The Head-Heart-Hand approach of learning by doing and info-tainment which stimulates curiosity, motivation and action was often referred to in this context. Using such flexible tools allows for reaching out to divergent target groups: young and old, villagers and urban people, government officials and ordinary citizens. Some participants cautioned that the media and learning aids need to be used regularly in order to have sustained effects. Often, this is not only a matter of budget and finance but of political will, especially at the provincial and district level. Sharing available media products and learning materials for example among the network of LNR stations, PONRE or civil society organizations can help in this respect.





This led to a third frequently mentioned conclusion: Environmental protection cannot be done by the government alone. It needs active community involvement in outreach activities, co-management of protected areas, wildlife conservation, etc. This requires qualified staff both with government, mass media, mass and civil society organizations which often lack environmental knowledge and methodological skills. Hence, many participants advocated more and systematic human capacity development related to the competencies and team building relevant in environmental education and communication. Training and coaching should particularly address youth as a token of the future. Processes of human resource development and transfer of knowledge improve self-confidence in public presentation, management and organizational skills. The same applies to provincial and district organizations as the case study from Khammouane has proven. PONRE and schools there have worked on local environmental issues with local resource persons, media and games.





Seminar participants agreed that reliable, updated information and key messages on environmental issues should be easy to understand for all social groups. For example, the challenges that ethnic groups may be facing regarding language barriers, access to education or information can be overcome by using less text and more visual aids and interactive games. Radio programs can be translated into ethnic languages.





Yet, language and information as such is not the only problem. It is often difficult to explain complex links of causes and effects in nature, the economy and people's livelihood. Factual information delivered in an entertaining, interactive and socio-culturally appropriate way can help.





Therefore, research on target groups before developing media or learning aids is important to assess needs and a proper methods. By the same token, monitoring and quality management of outcomes and impacts are crucial in knowing whether or not environmental education and communication efforts are on the right track.





The overall impression participants took home with them from the ProCEEd seminar was the sense that a whole new generation of environmental officers, journalists, scientists, experts, students, civil society activists and volunteers is growing in Laos.


A magazine-style seminar documentation is available which summarizes the papers and presentations submitted, interviews held with relevant staff involved in ProCEEd and case study activities as well as the discussion results from questions and answers and working group sessions.