[Original (March 9, 2022); Translated by J. Tsuchiya/A. Taguchi]
In Laos, the lands of villagers in rural areas, which they use for daily life, are often grabbed and destroyed by developers without any sufficient compensation. In addition, excessive production of cash crops and woodcutting, including those done by the villagers themselves, cause unnoticed deforestation.
To improve this situation, the villagers need a guide to lead a stable life by preserving natural resources and the lands which are the basis of their livelihood as well as to be able to protect their own rights. Therefore, we implemented legal training on land use and other important legal information they need. From 2018 to 2021, we had 46 training sessions in 10 villages with a total number of 2,279 participants.
To protect the villagers’ rights on the use of their lands and natural resources and to teach them how to deal with cases involving land use, we gave them easy explanations of the related laws by using “the legal calendars” and posters on which they are concisely written. In the fiscal year of 2019, 72% of the participants in the legal training showed comprehension. In the fiscal year of 2020, 64% of the participants understood more than 70% of the contents of the training. Some villagers say:
“We used to refrain from borrowing and lending land to avoid potential trouble because we had no land certificate. But having been trained, some villagers started to obtain an official certificate that clarifies the name of the landowner, area, and other information in detail to avoid any trouble when borrowing and lending.”
“I could learn about various laws concerning forests, lands, and rivers. Beforehand, the legal calendar was only a tool for me to know the date and lunar age, but now I consult it to learn about the contents of the laws. In a village meeting, I explained the legal calendar and laws to other villagers.”
These comments show that the villagers implement and share what they learned during the legal training. Laotian rural villagers know the best way to live in harmony with their natural environment. In order not to lose their lands that are richly endowed with nature and the basis of their livelihood, it is important that they are empowered to continue to protect and manage it by themselves.