A village’s struggle to preserve its sacred forest

Collection with 31 media items created by Corentin Fohlen

Laos 28 Mar 2014 08:20

Forests are the heart of Long La's development. In a country ravaged by deforestation, this village of 500 inhabitants has become a model of sustainable development. With the help of Speri, a vietnamese NGO, Long La has found a way to preserve its forest thanks to agroecology.

The forest is rich in medicinal plants and rare species and generates wealth for the community. Prior to 2004, it was threatened by timber exploitation. But its inhabitants soon realized that the water shortages they were facing were not normal and that the air was drier than it should have been in this tropical region.

It did not take long before they began to blame deforestation, which also adversely affects agricultural production. Today, forests cover 40% of the territory of Laos, whereas they made up 70% in the 1950s. In order to protect their forest, villagers in Long La reserved certain areas for the production of timber and others for medicinal plants. In some areas, it is now strictly forbidden to gather wood. They also enacted strict rules to preserve the forest, such as keeping farm animals in paddocks to prevent them from damaging trees.

In 2005, the Laotian government recognized Long La inhabitants' know-how and put them in charge of managing the village's forest. Doing so came naturally to the inhabitants since they all belong to the Hmong community, an animist ethnic group that considers the forest sacred. In Long La, the forest is even believed to host a venerated spirit: the Patongxenh.

Deforestation is being driven by corruption as well as poorly managed industrial-scale plantations for things like rubber. Yet Long La's management of the forest has proven that preservation can lead to development and wealth. Thanks to the forest, the village now cultivates Zong Zwa, a plant with bright yellow flowers that tastes similar to rocca. The village also produces 12 tons of organic vegetables each year which they sell to hotels and restaurants in Luang Prabang. Speri now works with 12 other villages to implement Long La's model. In 2012, the NGO and the villagers created a rural school to train local residents in agroecology.

Laos Forest Deforestation V Illage Organic Farming Vegetables Luang Prabang Long La Zong Zwa Rocca Agroecology Speri Ngo Sacred Tree Trees Sustainable ... Ecology Natural Habitat Preservation Nature Prese... Jungle Medicinal Pl... Timber Explo... Water Shortage Patongxenh Spirit Of Th... Corruption Illegal Plan... Zong Zwa Flower Organic Agri... Organic Zong... Organic Food Growing Orga... Organic Garden Long La's Model Long La Ngo Local Farm Sustainability

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Laos deforestation 26
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Healers from all over the country discuss among the medicinal plants at the training centre of Long La. The centre was created in 2012 by the villagers and Speri to teach agroecology.

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Laos deforestation 25
Luang Prabang
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

The Ban Phong Van wood sawmill near Luang Prabang.

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Laos deforestation 24
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
13 Mar 2014

Bia Twa Giang, 59, is one of the 16 healers of Long La. Here poses in the preserved area where medicinal plants grow.

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Laos deforestation 22
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. Women harvesting Zong Zwa

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Laos deforestation 20
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. fevrier 2014. Bia Twa Giang, 59, one of the 16 healers of Long Lan, poses in the protected area where medicinal plants grow. The forest is home to more than 250 species of medicinal plants.

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Laos deforestation 19
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. A boy coming back from the harvest.

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Laos deforestation 18
Luang Prabang
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos. february 2014. Paddy fields near Luang Prabang

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Laos deforestation 17
Donemai
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Donemai, Laos. february 2014. The Donemai market where the vegetables from Long La are sold

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Laos deforestation 16
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014.
Burnt fields to where Hevea trees will be cultivated.

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Laos deforestation 15
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. A sacred mountain where the primary forest grows

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Laos deforestation 14
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. Sai Ly, 33, is cutting down a teak tree

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Laos deforestation 13
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. Sprouts of Zong Zwa

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Laos deforestation 11
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014.
Zong Zwa for sale at Long La's market.

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Laos deforestation 10
Yang
By Corentin Fohlen
13 Mar 2014

Yang, Laos. february 2014. A woman and her child in the village of Yang.

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Laos deforestation 9
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos. february 2014. The Ban Phong Van wood sawmill near Luang Prabang.

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Laos deforestation 8
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. A woman harvesting Zong Zwa with her child.

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Laos deforestation 6
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. At Long La's market, people come to buy Zong Zwa in order to resell it in Luang Prabang's markets.

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Laos deforestation 5
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014.

On Chit works for the NGO Speri. She helps at the Peasants School, a training centre in Long La that teaches agroecology. She poses on the wooden structure of the next students house, facing the sacred forest.

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Laos deforestation 1
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. Fevruary 2014. Nen Lu Giang just bought Zong Zwa flowers at Long La to resell them at the market.

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Laos deforestation 2
Donemai
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Donemai, Laos. fevruary 2014. At the Donemai market, the demand for organic vegetables is high. The Zong Zwa is one of the most popular crop on markets.

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Laos deforestation 3
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014. Hevea crops, the major commercial source of natural rubber latex used, near Long La. In the northern parts of Laos,
Chinese companies are implementing rubber planting projects, leading to deforestation and the drying of the soil.

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Laos deforestation 4
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. February 2014.

Jong Gia Giang and Na Mo Tho pose in front of their house. They converted to Zong Zwa farming, the yellow gold of the village. They also grow suzu, a vegetable that looks like an eggplant. The money they earned allowed them to send their son Luang Prabang to university and pay for their 11 children's tuition fees.

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Laos deforestation 7
Yang
By Corentin Fohlen
18 Feb 2014

Yang, Laos. february 2014.
Under the pressure of foreign companies investing in Laos, mainly Chinese, some peasants grow new crops which are often not adapted to the local environment. Munma, 36, poses in his field of "star beans", a crop that is in high demand in China.

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Laos deforestation 12
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
19 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014.
Not far from the village of Long La, the Giang family is burning a field to prepare it for the cultibation of Hevea.

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Laos deforestation 21
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

Longlan, Laos. february 2014.
Peasants burning fields to grow Hevea trees. The milky latex extracted from the tree is the primary source of natural rubber.

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Laos deforestation 29
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
17 Feb 2014

At the market of Long La where the harvests are sold.

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Laos deforestation 30
Longlan
By Corentin Fohlen
13 Mar 2014

Bia Twa Giang, 59, is one of the 16 healers of Long La. He is posing at the entrance of the preserved areas where medicinal plants grow. The forest is home to more than 250 species of medicinal plants.