Mekong Water Dialogue’s work in Champassak Province, Lao PDR includes a study on the women’s groups and their traditional use of natural resources. During a recent field survey in Beung Kiat Ngong wetlands, the MWD field officer, Mr. Vilavong met with local women and observed their daily work. The experience gave Mr. Vilavong a new appreciation for the importance of the aquatic plants and animals in the wetlands to local livelihoods.
When setting our for a field survey, Mr. Vilavong observed a group of five women preparing tools that they would take with them to collect fish and aquatic plants in Nong Takoat swamp within the wetlands. Mr. Vilavong assumed that the food they could find in the swamp would be limited, however, when he started asking the women about how much they could collect, he was very surprised. The women explained that food collected from the swamp is a main part of their families’ diets and that they go there to collect food every single day. Every day, they find the food their families’ rely on despite the fact that the population of the area is growing. And, the only tools they need to collect food is a few tools they make themselves, such as scoop nets, scoop baskets, and bamboo tube traps for eels and frogs and others.
One woman shared a proverb her grandmother taught her: « man used a crossbowl lost five works and man used a gun lost thousand works ». The proverb means that men spent time a lot on difficult jobs like hunting— sometimes they are successful and bring home large animals, but often they are unsuccessful and have nothing to show for their efforts. Instead of taking this risk, men should focus on activities that are guaranteed to benefit their family—such as collecting fish and plants from the swamp. Women are smart to focus on this kind of labor and hardworking because they can do this in addition to taking care of a house and children.
A story like this confirms the importance of biodiversity conservation to local livelihoods and motivates us to continue our work to conserve Beung Kiat Ngong wetlands.
For more information about Mekong Water Dialogues in Lao PDR, please contact Mr. Raphaël Glémet, IUCN Lao PDR: firstname.lastname@example.org.