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Forests cover nearly 50 percent of the Lower Mekong region1, providing a wide array of benefits to millions of people. Trees are one of nature’s most efficient ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon. The region’s forests, with their unique flora and fauna, are also important sources of income and employment and contribute significantly to people’s health and the economic growth of the surrounding countryside. Yet despite the benefits, forests in the Mekong region continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate (nearly 1% per year, or more than 500,000 hectares per year), as land is converted for crops, grazing or other uses. Unsustainable and illegal logging, urbanization, and climate change also add significantly to their rapid decline. The loss and degradation of forests are important factors in global climate change, representing about 15 percent of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. Roughly half of this amount comes from deforestation and forest degradation in Asia.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recognizes that Asia’s forests contribute greatly to the region and the communities that depend on them and is constantly seeking innovative ways to encourage better forest management. One set of ideas in our strategy centers around creating incentives that encourage communities to manage their forest lands more effectively. Such approaches work for their benefit, while contributing to global efforts to address climate change. This is consistent with international strategies to promote REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) policies which create financial value for protecting forests and the carbon they store.
PROGRAM ACTIVITIES IN THE LOWER MEKONG
Target Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam
As part of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), the LEAF (Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests) program is a five-year regional effort which= was started in early 2011 to promote regional collaboration on forest management. Implemented by Winrock International, LEAF’s regional approach is to strengthen the technical capacity of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as other countries, to manage their forests better through:
- Sharing effective approaches to common challenges;
- Replicating and scaling up innovations in other Asian countries;
- Developing regional models, methodologies and standards; and
- Addressing trans-boundary issues and causes of deforestation.
Last updated: June 03, 2013