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Community / Land projects / CO-Oxfam in Lao

CO-Oxfam in Lao


03/23 - 03/25


This project is part of


Lao PDR is a water rich country, benefitting from the water resources of the Mekong River, tributaries and many smaller water bodies that contribute greatly to national economic development and the livelihoods of local communities. While water demand remains low in terms of per-capita public consumption, in recent years, water resources have gained greater prominence due to the increasing role of hydropower and irrigation in economic development. Largescale construction of dams on the Mekong River and tributaries is expected to impact the hydrological profile and biodiversity of these systems and exacerbate the impact of projected climate change trends related to the flow regimes and by altering processes of erosion and sediment deposition. The total annual water flow in Lao PDR is estimated at 270 billion meters – equivalent to 35% of the average annual flow of the entire Mekong River Basin. Although classified as a low risk (89) on the global Climate Risk Index Lao PDR remains vulnerable primarily to hydrometeorological hazards. Seasonal flooding is common within the eight river basins across the country. Most vulnerable areas are the low-lying flood plains along the Mekong River and its major tributaries in the northern, central and southern regions. The majority of the population resides in rural areas with 72% (in 2015) of the working population employed in the agriculture sector. Poverty is concentrated in remote and rural areas, particularly those inhabited by ethnic communities. Predicted change in climate include increased rain fall of 10-30% andincreased frequency and intensity of extreme weather (floods and droughts). The Mekong and Sekong river basins are prone to regularflooding, exacerbated by deforestation and land degradation due toagricultural practices. Lao PDR has transitioned from a primarily disaster response approach to a risk management approach with the establishment of the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee (NDPCC) and the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) with the National Disaster Management Office acting as the Secretariat. A Department of Disaster Management and Climate Change under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) wasalso established by decree in 2013. DRM structures at sub-national levels include Provincial Disaster Prevention and Control Committees (PDPCCs) district equivalents (DDPCCs) and at the village level, Village Disaster Prevention Units (VDPU). VDPUs act as the interface between communities and the government system and include representatives of community-based organizations (CBOs), traditional leaders and other community actors. Oxfam has extensive experience in working with these structures including for participatory vulnerability assessments and planning and linking these to the formal DRM structures. Key challenges include resourcing to the DRM structures, coordination between agencies and the need to integrate DRM approaches into development planning given the socio-economic needs in remote areas. Community-participatory DRM approaches are priorities to bridge the gap between formal and informal structures and in recognition of the challenges of service delivery in remote communities. Gender: Despite a policy environment that promotes genderequality (Law on Development and Protection of Women 2004 and Law on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Children 2014) and an overall decrease in the inequality gap between women and men; women are still less likely to attain secondary education compared to men, are less likely to be literate compared to men and due to early marriage are more likely to drop out of school. During disasters women, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are disproportionately impacted partly because they are morelikely to operate in the informal economy, have less access to social protection systems and experience increased exposure to gender-based violence. Traditional beliefs and social norms limit the role women play outside the home and this also extends to DRM structures and practices where the perspectives of women and the role they can play may not be realised unless specific steps are taken. Riverine community vulnerability: Across the country communities in rural areas reliant on agricultural, fisheries and forest resource have heightened vulnerability to recurring hydro-meteorological disasters such as floods, drought, storms, land erosion, earthquakes and pandemics due to the increasing impact of climate change. Vulnerability is not evenwith women, ethnic minorities and remotecommunities considered more vulnerable. The increasing unpredictability of rain fall and flood patterns that irrigate fields, replenish fisheries and nurture forest and wetlands challenge traditional systems and practices require other forms of information and support to adapt livelihoods reliant on these resources and reduce the impact of extreme weather events. This requires strengthening of community capacity to understand and assess these changes and impact atthe local level including the differential impact on women and other social groups; and to collectively plan inclusive strategies to adapt current livelihood practices and strategies while atthe same time continuing their day-to-day smart livelihood activities. Local authority capacity: At the local level where policy meets implementation, there are key gaps particularly related to the interface between communities and formal DRM committees at the commune/local authority levels. The integration of investment in DRM and CCA into cyclical local development planning is a key gap despite existing policies that promote community-based approaches. This is largely due to competing priorities at this level and the need for meaningful participatory approachesto be effective that are often beyond the skill set, experience, and time availability/priorities of officials at this level. The integration of community perspectives and analysis into local development planning is also hindered by traditional top-down governmental approaches reflecting power differentials related to resources, roles and social hierarchy including gendered attitudes, norms, and behaviours. Access to data/information: Laos has invested in data gathering and dissemination systems for DRM using a range of hydro-meteorological data sources including rain and river gauges, remote sensing, and weather forecasting technology such as radar and satellite imagery. Delivery systems include pilot warning announcement via mobile messages, installation of loudspeakers at districts and villages, construction of flood protection barrier and warning systems, and various data sharing platforms targeting local DRM committees and riverine communities directly. Understanding what data is available, collected by whom and the social-political factors determining availability, accessibility, useability, and timeliness of data (including gender, ethnicity, location etc) is of key importance as is incorporation of local and traditional knowledge and experience to inform how the data is used. The Strengthening Climate Resilience (SCR) project seeks to strengthen the resilience of communities living along the Mekong River and tributaries to impacts of climate change. This project builds upon Oxfam and partners’ existing work. SCR will work with riverine communities representing some of the most vulnerable in Luang Prabang and Champasak provinces. Specific communities are also selected based on Oxfam’s understanding of needs, and on existing relationships with project partners under the ongoing Inclusion Project Phase II (IP2).