The 2011 Australia–Laos Timber Chain of Custody Capacity Building Project was designed to promote development and improvement of sustainable forestry systems in Lao PDR, and focused on
Improving approaches to sustainable forest management practices
Strengthening compliance and governance approaches and processes
Improving supply chain efficiencies for both state and private forest resources
Improving engagement with private industrial and smaller plantation manager
Improving market access and address issues of legality for small forest managers
Strengthening professional links between Australian and Lao PDR foresters.
The project was delivered in two parts: a study tour in Tasmania and Queensland from 31 October to 18 November 2011, and a follow-up meeting in Laos to finalise outcomes, recommendations, and further outreach to provincial and district offices. These meetings were held 1–9 December 2011.
The participants in the study tour were senior officials from the two Lao government agencies that are responsible for forest management: the Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI) and the Department of Forestry (DOF). They were
Mr Khamphout Phandanouvong, Deputy Director General, DOFI
Mr Phomma Pathoummavong, Coordinator of Forest Certification, Division for Forest Production, DOF
Mr Bounthanh Philachanh, Director Investigation Division, Wildlife and Aquatic life Inspection Division, DOFI.
The Australian coordinator was Mr Aidan Flanagan, General Manager of the Forests and Forest Industry Council of Tasmania, and the Chairman of the Institute of Foresters of Australia Tasmania Division.
This project supported representatives from GoL DOFI and DOF agencies to participate in in field-based supply and value chain operations and assessments in Tasmania and Queensland. Presentations by visiting and practising experts provided strategic training in forest management and policy development. Topics included Australian forest management, certification and Chain of Custody systems, research and development, market development, regulations, law enforcement and governance.
Field inspections of Tasmanian forest practices provided participants an opportunity to examine an established Australian system whose Code of Forest Practice requirements are applied equally across all land tenures, and which is supported through an independent regulator and audit and compliance system. The Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority’s (FPA) responsibilities and authority are similar to that being developed within DOFI.
The project provided Lao participants with access privately and publicly certified forests, and examined the role and benefits of Chain of Custody along the forests-to-consumers supply and value chains. Participants had opportunities to discuss private and public landowners’ experiences in obtaining accreditation under both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) certification systems. Participants also examined market access and development issues with a range of forest managers, processors, exporters and designers. Responsibilities across supply chains under the forest practices system, and funding mechanisms for biodiversity conservation and forest compliance were also examined.
Forest practices in Queensland provided a contrast to the Tasmanian approach. In Queensland, there is no Code of Forest Practices for private forest managers, nor an independent regulatory body akin to the FPA. In addition, the Queensland Government has a policy to phase out public native forest use by 2020 under the South East Queensland Forests Agreement, replacing it with plantation forestry. In Laos there is great interest in developing tropical plantations to reduce the pressure on native forests. There is currently around 135,000 ha under plantation established by private companies at a cost of around US$750 million (see Appendix 1 for more detail).
Queensland’s reliance on remote satellite land use assessments for compliance provided participants with a useful example of an alternative approach to compliance activities. However, as the GoL mapping capability is spread across a number of un-coordinated agencies, and the cost of on-ground compliance activities is currently prohibitive (see Section 7.3) this approach has, in the short term, limited application. As the GoL’s capacity in this area increases, such approaches may become viable.
Overall, consideration of Queensland's approach provided benefits to the participants in that it has climatic similarities to Laos, is actively promoting an expansion to existing industrial plantation resources, and has yet to develop a a Certificate of Compliance for private forestry. Queensland’s approach to plantation development and processing diversity also provided a broader understanding of different approaches to the management of private and public forests which should assist the GoL to improve their plantation systems, and encourage the development of private plantation forest estate.
Table 5.1 presents an outline of the program, organisations visited, topics and issues.
7.3.Progressing discussions in Lao to build on participant’s experience and transfer knowledge
The Australian counterpart travelled to Laos for in-country discussions 1–9 December 2011 to develop an agreed position on outcomes arising from the exchange, to agree on progress actions, and to develop a framework for disseminating new knowledge to provincial and district offices.
Extensive discussions were held between authors and the Directors General of DOFI and DOF to reach agreement on the key lessons arising from the exchange and to identify which elements were consistent with GoL objectives and policies. Actions were developed to improve current approaches to forest management, compliance, certification, and the engagement of private individuals and companies (see section 6.2).
Co-authors also developed a series of presentations for provincial and district officers which highlight the key messages and benefits arising from the exchange. These were presented to a meeting of 14 senior central and provincial DOFI and DOF officers in Vientiane on 8 December, 2011. Four presentations were delivered, including one from Aidan Flanagan. At the meeting’s conclusion, there was strong agreement by representatives of both organisations to provide further briefing to provincial and district offices in 2012.
Table 5 Overview of study tour program, presenters, topics and issues
Tasmanian forests and management, Forestry Tasmania’s policies, objectives and approaches to sustainable forest management.
A Prof Gregory Nolan
Centre for sustainable architecture with wood
University of Tasmania
Supply chain interactions, building codes and standards, architects and specifiers’ requirements
Ms Ann LaSala
Sustainability and Systems Manager,
SFM Forestry Services
Certification (Australian Forestry Standard, Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification, Forest Stewardship Council), chain of custody and group certification for smaller private forest managers