A Joint Walk into the Future

Authorities, park managers and local population working together on sustainable solutions for People and Nature in the Hin Nam No Protected Area


With its 82,000ha surface, the Hin Nam No National Protected area (HNN NPA) on the Lao-Vietnamese border is the largest continuous karst formation of South-East Asia. Scattered within the karst are large tracts and smaller pockets of pristine forest that support at least five rare primate species, four species of hornbills and the Sooty Babbler, an endemic bird species. Some research has been done on the possible effects of climate change on the Red-shanked douc langur monkey (Pygathrix nemaeus) which is considered as one of the flagship species. Scientists fear that rising temperatures caused by climate change will alter the food supply in the hills and force the Douc to change into lower habitats, increasing the risk of falling prey to human hunting.

Under the karst formation runs a 7 km long underground river, which plays a vital role for the fish: many species survive in it during the dry season lasting from November to May.

About 22 villages are dotted around the Hin Nam No National Protected Area. Most of the 7,000 people living in the area belong to ethnic minorities and are considered very poor. They meet some 70% of their food needs and its other household requirements through the use of natural resources in and around the protected area. Activities such as fishing, hunting and small-scale logging are putting pressure on the ecosystem, which is exacerbated by commercial hunters and loggers coming from outside.

Studies conducted in Hin Nam No reveal an increase of temperature and precipitations. This is assumed to be a result of climate change, although it is too early to note the exact impact on biodiversity. Climate Change might alter the length of the rainy and the dry season, disturbing the fragile balance of the cave´s ecosystem.

The Approach

To tackle the issue, the project focuses on cooperation. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is supporting local authorities, park staff and village communities to jointly manage the area and create new sources of income for park staff and local population through a co-management approach.

The Impacts 

Sustainable fishing in the river is promoted by designating fish conservation zones in the co-management plan, and by breeding fish in artificial ponds – converted bomb craters from the Vietnam War. The plan also proposes the generation of alternative income sources for the population. These include titles for the sustainable use of forest resources in controlled zones of the park, eco-tourism developments, and the production of bamboo handicrafts. Conservation efforts are for example joint biodiversity monitoring and patrolling in the park (protected area staff together with villagers).