Laos forestry experts discuss rosewood conservation

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Lao officials and representatives of international organisations are meeting in Vientiane to discuss the conservation of genetic diversity in rosewood, towards more resilient livelihoods in the Mekong region.

The meeting is taking place from September 10-14. The opening ceremony on Monday was attended by Director General of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI), Dr Bounthong Bouahome, and British Ambassador to Laos Mr Hugh Evans.

Workshop sessions are planned to discuss and agree plans to carry out activities to ensure project outputs; develop a detailed work plan for the first year of the project; develop trust and a working relationship between partners; explore/clarify collaborations with other Dalbergia genetic resources projects and more broadly conservation/management/restoration projects and programmes in these countries; and link and contribute to other ongoing initiatives to ensure complementarity and mutual benefits.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Bounthong said NAFRI was a leading institution for agriculture and forestry research. It consists of 14 research centres and two divisions, including the Forest Research Centre. NAFRI is equivalent to technical departments under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

To accelerate forest genetic resource conservation, NAFRI works with both local and international organisations to identify suitable solutions and efficient methodologies of conservation.

With assistance from various advanced organisations in the exchange of technologies, knowledge, experiences and support, NAFRI will be able to upgrade its capacity to develop the forest research sector.

Forest genetic resource conservation activities in Laos are still new compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Priority species for forest genetic resources conservation and management can be classified into 13 prohibited tree species; 31 priority tree species; 15 additional priority tree species; 114 selected tree species assessed for conservation status; 24 tree species not assessed for conservation status; eight bamboo species; and 20 rattan species.

Both in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts are rare in Laos and there is hardly any data on the distribution of forest genetic resources. More information should be extracted from, for example, existing provenance trials and demonstration plots to develop plans for the conservation of forest genetic resources.

In-situ conservation was established in 2002 in 76 places including 29 trees species at the headquarters site and other demonstration plots.

Ex-situ conservation species include Dalbergia cochinchinensis, Dalbergia cultrata; Dalbergia oliveri, Dalbergia adorata, Erythrophoeum fordii, Aquilaria crassna, and Pterocarpus macrocarpus.

Dr Bounthong said he was pleased to have the attendance of lecturers and experts from universities, research institute and other partners, who would give presentations on key study areas related to the project context.

He said the meeting was an important opportunity for participants to understand more details of the project. He encouraged everyone to openly make comments and ask questions about project activities and future plans, as well as project management, to ensure the project ran smoothly and achieved its objectives.

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