Alternative Futures in the Lao Uplands: Multi-function or Mono-function?

Organized by NAFRI, TABI and CDE

May 2, 2018 at NAFRI Vientiane

The sustainable development of Lao uplands is caught between two competing and, often mutually-exclusive, visions. On the one hand, traditional small-holder systems create and depend upon multifunctional landscape. These are often complex mixes of cultivated land, managed fallows, and utilized forests. Such systems provide livelihood options, food security and promote the resilience of upland livelihoods. In many cases, such multifunctional-landscape based systems have been shown to enhance the protection of forest resources. In the Lao uplands, these systems are increasingly being replaced by monocultural  plantations of rubber, maize, cassava and other crops. Likewise there is more pressure to exclude traditional practices from forested areas.

The necessity of seeking a sustainable future for the Lao uplands is clear and central to the government’s national development priorities. However, there is a number of critical uncertainties that also hinder the adoption of strategies for mitigating negative impacts from development. One of the ways to approach uncertainties is through scenarios. Scenarios are stories about how the future may unfold.

This meeting will bring together development, planners, practitioners, civil society organizations and academics to use scenario planning to better understand the critical uncertainties in the future trajectories of Lao Upland Development and identify different strategies which can be potentially used to help deal with these uncertainties.

The outcome from this workshop will be the identification of a number of scenarios and strategies for addressing the critical uncertainties identified. This should help government and donor planners to develop more realistic strategies which are adaptive and can respond to the dynamic change taking place in the Lao Uplands.

The main process that will be used is participatory scenario planning. In this instance we have used the concept of ‘critical uncertainties’ to guide the scenario planning.