Growing food forests along the Ou River in Lao PDR

Bounty from the Nam Ou food forest.

Bounty from the Nam Ou food forest. (Photo by Green Laos Community.)

Food security from the wild food forest

The concept of “food forest” refers to the practice of combining wild and wild-grown plants for food security in forested areas. It is a common practice in many communities in Laos, such as in Had Chan village, a Khmu indigenous community located on the Ou River. For these villagers, their main sources of food are from the forest, upland rice cultivation, and the Ou River, including fish, other aquatic animals, and river weeds. They sustain their subsistence-based livelihood predominantly by using traditional highland agricultural methods to grow rice and fruit trees. They also let other wild plants grow in the area that are used to cook food and for medicinal herbs.

Recently, Khmu youths from Luang Prabang province joined villagers to help map existing uses of food forests, and to replant food forests in their forest garden and along the Ou River bank area that have become degraded due to increased river bank erosion in recent years, and the use of chemical fertilizers in the village. Keuay, a Khmu youth who helped with the food forest replantation activity, is concerned about the loss of forested areas in Laos. He observes that people in rural areas still depend on the forest for many things, including their meat, vegetable, and fruits. He says:

“A food forest is a forest that provides food to meet our needs. It means that if we want to eat fruits, we can get it there, if we want to eat vegetable we can get it there, or if we want to eat anything we can get it there.” 

This photo gallery captures the villagers’ food forest reclamation activity which was undertaken to reinforce food security in the community, as well as to mitigate against land erosion along the Ou River.

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