The objective of the Rural Development Program in Nakai Nam Theun Watershed is to improve the living conditions of the people whilst maintaining and improving local conservation values. WMPA aims to provide livelihood development options to villagers that focus on enhancing food security and are linked with a community-based conservation approach.
The focus of the Rural Development Program within agriculture has been on improvement of traditional farming systems. This includes animal management (vaccination, animal nutrition, housing and preventative health care); crop production (improved plant material and seed storage, grading, planting technique and new seed varieties) for rice, cassava, other vegetable crops; and participatory land use management and planning. All villages within the protected area have completed training in land use planning. The land use planning team works with villagers to distinguish the boundaries of agricultural land, production forest and conservation forest and work together to establish rules for the respective areas. Currently villages in the peripheral impact zone are still undergoing this process.
The focus within health has been to improve access to trained medical services within each cluster of the National Protected Area. To achieve this a health care centre was constructed in each cluster and training provided to build the capacity of villagers in family planning and hygiene. WMPA also provides the salaries for four medical staff to work within the NPA and subsidises medicine and mosquito nets for supply from the health centres. WMPA has sought the active involvement of the women’s union group within these activities, building their capacity to become involved in projects within their villages.
Education traditionally relied on monks and ex military personnel who had developed literary skills. This system was informal and unreliable. WMPA’s focus has been to build a network of schools within villages in the NPA and support the distribution of educational materials and incentives for teachers i.e. accommodation and supplementary salaries, to retain staff within the educational system. WMPA have introduced conservation into the school curriculum as a part of the process of developing a discourse within villages of community-based conservation and an appreciation for the local ecosystem. WMPA has also, in conjunction with the Vocational Centre, supported students from within the NPA to access opportunities for further study. Through Community Outreach and Conservation Awareness Programs, WMPA has developed a fun and interpretive approach to education, raising conservation and development awareness that encourages participation in conservation initiatives like the Village Conservation and Monitoring Units.
Basic infrastructure and social services have been developed with participation between WMPA and relevant offices of the district and local villagers. Various projects have focused on improving access between enclave villages and improving local village infrastructure e.g. access to clean water, solar power, small-scale hydro-power, small-scale irrigation and paddy field improvement.
Alternate Sources of Income
WMPA is actively seeking sustainable supplementary sources of income for villagers including opportunities for cash-crop markets and the potential for ecotourism as alternate income.