Final report Small research and development activity project Australia–Laos Timber Chain of Custody Capacity Building Project

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2.Executive summary

The 2011 Australia–Laos Timber Chain of Custody Capacity Building Project was designed to promote development and improvement of sustainable forestry systems in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and focused on

  1. Improving approaches to sustainable forest management practices

  2. Strengthening compliance and governance approaches and processes

  3. Improving supply chain efficiencies for both state and private forest resources

  4. Improving engagement with private industrial and smaller plantation manager

  5. Improving market access and address issues of legality for small forest managers

  6. Strengthening professional links between Australian and Lao PDR foresters.

The project was delivered in two parts: a study tour for three senior officials from the Departments of Forestry (DOF), and Forest Inspection (DOFI) in Tasmania and Queensland from 31 October to 18 November 2011, and a follow-up meeting in Laos 1–9 December 2011 to finalise outcomes, recommendations, and further outreach to provincial and district offices.

The project participants achieved a broad appreciation of the importance of a strong governance and compliance system that demonstrates legality and improves market access. The participants summarised their experience into key lessons and recommendations for immediate and future funding, and have developed presentations for knowledge transfer within their respective agencies.

3.Key Lessons

  1. Benefits arise in establishing standard approaches to compliance by having clearly defined investigation and enforcement, and monitoring and assessment protocols which are applied consistently, transparently and efficiently.

  2. The importance of having clearly defined roles and responsibilities across supply chains defined under legislation, and a Code of Forest Practices which is enforced through an independent (from the forest manager) regulator that undertakes monitoring and assessments, as well as compliance activities against which planning objectives, operational outcomes and compliance are assessed.

  3. Codes of Forest Practices are important for forest management in that they provide a minimum and consistent standard against which planning objectives, operational outcomes, and compliance and monitoring are assessed.

  4. Certification and Chain of Custody systems are valuable across supply and value chains and can improve forest management systems where Codes of Forest Practices do not exist. These systems are also effective within markets as a mechanism which demonstrated a commitment to sustainability. Chain of Custody systems from forest to end-consumer can provide financial returns across supply chains. Importantly, such systems do not necessarily have to be complex but they do require consistency, transparency and accountability.

  5. While FSC is currently the only certification system in Lao, there are credible and simpler alternative certification systems which are comparable to FSC.

  6. Recognition of the importance of small integrated and high value-focused forest owners as contributors to the supply chain and providers of economic benefits to individuals. However, issues such as group certification, coordinated marketing, resource quality and compliance costs must be addressed to remove unfair or disproportionate cost burdens.

  7. The benefit of consistent and comprehensive operational and management data files for individual forest management agreements that provide ready access to information that would provide efficiencies within DOF and for compliance by DOFI

  8. Detailed, consistent and easily understood mapping systems can support decision making for planning, assessment and operations.

  9. Private wildlife protection and conservation parks and organisations can support government efforts when undertaken in a cooperative manner that avoids duplication and incorporates agreed priorities.


Participants identified 12 actions to be progressed within the GoL: Nine of these recommendations can be actioned by DOF and DOFI within existing funding, while three require further external funding. Recommended actions for DOFI include scoping the development of a Code of Forest Practices, establishing protocols for assessment of forest resource use against forest management plans and establishing closer relationships with private plantation developers and conservation agencies. Actions for immediate implementation by DOF include investigating alternative FSC audit organisations, trialling more efficient data management, investigating coordinated mapping capability across GoL agencies and engaging more closely with private forest owners. Actions that require further funding include developing and implementing a Code of Forest Practice, establishing an independent forest regulator and/or expanding DOFI’s role as an independent monitoring and assessment organisation, developing Chain of Custody arrangements with retail and tourist outlets, and further development of monitoring, assessment, compliance and enforcement protocols.

The project was successful in strengthening professional links between Australian and Lao foresters. In addition to the relationship established between the Institute of Foresters of Australia, DOFI and DOF, over 30 individual forest managers and practitioners provided contact details and extended offers for ongoing assistance to participants of the project.


In January 2011, in country discussions with the Government of Lao (GoL) Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), Sustainable Forestry and Rural Development Project and other organisations indicated that examination of forest management and certification expertise and approaches outside Lao would assist DOFI, the GoL Department of Forestry (DOF) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to build capacity to address deficiencies in forest law enforcement capacity, to review existing approaches to certification and Chain of Custody, industrial and small scale plantation development, and in doing so develop and deliver improved approaches to current forest resource management and development.

This project was developed to

  • establish closer professional relationships between Lao PDR and Australian forestry officials

  • support Lao PDR officials to visit Australia as a capacity building opportunity

  • promote improvements to sustainable forest management

  • improve supply chain efficiencies and governance arrangements.

The funding was provided to the Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA) and used to support the costs of Lao officers coming to Australia for the study tour and an Australian officer spending some time in Laos after the study tour to work with the Lao officers to prepare a report on possible improvements to their current system. This two-way support was an important part of the overall capacity building assistance provided to the Lao officers.

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