Integrating Community-Based Fisheries Co-Management and Protected Areas Management in Laos PDR: Opportunities for advancement and obstacles to implementation
Between 1993 and 1998, 63 villages in Khong District, Champasak Province, southern Lao P.D.R. established co-management regulations to sustainably manage and conserve inland aquatic resources, including fisheries, in the Mekong River, streams, wetlands and paddy fields. Local government has endorsed these regulations, but villages have been given the mandate to choose what regulations to adopt based on local conditions, traditional ecological knowledge and community consensus.~This paper presents detailed historical and current information regarding the development of the aquatic resource co-management and its monitoring system in Khong District. While many of the lessons learned from the co-management experience in Khong are applicable to other parts of Laos and the region, unique conditions in different areas will require inventive approaches to meet local needs. Common property regimes can break down in crisis, but experience in Khong indicates that they can also be strengthened in response to resource management. This may be aided by the suggestion that villages in Lao, perhaps more than any other region in Southeast Asia, can be characterised as self-sustaining communities relatively unconnected with larger political and social units, and are, in many areas, of low social and economic stratification. It is argued that having the freedom and ability to be flexible with regards to management approaches is one of the biggest advantages of decentralised natural resource management systems. It encourages dynamic adaptive management and keeps regulations relevant. Indeed, experiences in Khong show that it is at least as critical to understand kinship, religious, linguistic, social, economic, political and cultural factors that affect resource management practices as it is to understand ecological processes.