The rapid growth in tourism is threatening the Konglor-Natane caves, one of the most remarkable natural sites in Laos. While this growth is clearly having a positive economic impact, it is of utmost importance to reconcile local development and the preservation of this jewel of biodiversity. That is the objective of the “support for the emergence and consolidation of a sustainable management model and local natural and touristic sites in Khammouane” set up by the NGO Tétraktys and supported by AFD.
Jewel of biodiversity conservation
Discovered at the turn of the 20th century, the Konglor-Natane caves, in Khammouane Province, are in an exceptional 7km-long speleological system with a principal cave, which can be visited by boat, reaching 100 meters wide and high. A navigable transport route enjoyed by inhabitants seeking to travel between the Konglor and Natane villages, over the years it has become a must-see touristic site in the valley. 25,000 tourists visited in 2015; there were just 3,000 in 2008.
Waterfalls from Hin Boun spring, Laos © Tétraktys
Support local development and preservation of the site
The first impacts of this tourism boom are now visible for villagers in the valley with the installation of sanitary infrastructure, access to drinking water and the professionalization of actors. Other visible impacts: the rise in boat traffic in the caves and the emission of greenhouse gases. These phenomena are leading to the deterioration of the area and ultimately harm sustainable development in the region. The ecotourism association of Konglor-Natane (AEKN) was thus set up in 2014 in order to establish conservation and environmental management solutions; it is the first such association in the Lao republic. It gathers the 8 tourism groupings of the site and aims to implement a plan for the conservation, development and management of the caves.
Strengthen village tourism actors
AEKN benefits from a support program set up by Tétraktys and supported by AFD, Luxemburg cooperation, the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region, the French embassy in Laos as well as the Intercommunal Water Syndicate of the Grenoble Region. The project, with a total budget of €850,000, will be implemented between July 2016 and July 2019. It aims to strengthen the capacities of local actors and put in place tools for conservation and enhancement of the area through several actions:
- the development of ecological shuttles, the first means of transport using renewal energy in Laos at a natural site,
- the sustainable management of the Konglor-Natane caves, the first tourist site to be managed autonomously by the village community,
- the introduction of tools and training (creation of ecotourism trips and enhancement of new cultural and natural sites in the Natane Valley, training of 15 Lao trainers in subterranean hiking and village actors in nature guidework),
- the access to drinking water for Natane Valley villages.
A model to follow in Southeast Asia
At the end of the program, the Ecotourism association of Konglor Natane will be autonomous in the sustainable management of the tourist caves and share its expertise with other communities in the Natane Valley where 3 new natural sites will be outfitted and managed by the communities. New ecotourism poles will have emerged with new economic activities. The landscape of the karstic massif of Khammouane will thus be able to enter a process of international classification.
This innovative project therefore aims to become a model initiative in sustainable development in Southeast Asia: integrated tourism respectful of the environment and its inhabitants which make it possible for a high value-added natural site to join a virtuous circle of economic growth.
The phenomenon of street children and youth is related to the development of large cities and is one of the consequences of social exclusion which Samusocial International combats. In Dakar, Bamako, Ouagadougou and Pointe-Noire, the NGO has set up a system, supported by AFD, based on consultation with cities.
Care provided for 5,884 street children and youth in Dakar
The phenomenon of street children and youth is related to the development of large cities. Growing and poorly controlled urbanization, the disintegration of traditional solidarity, and the marginalization of families are all factors which exacerbate the social exclusion of countless children and young people.
Networking is an important catalyst for the success of this method, as Samusocial’s approach is at the intersection of several disciplines (medical care, social work, psychological support, legal and administrative assistance…). For example, since it was set up, Samusocial Senegal has provided care to 5,884 street children in Dakar.
Since 2013, three main thematic areas have highlighted the importance of partnerships in aid relationships:
Cities central to the debate on social exclusion in urban areas
While decentralization processes are underway in territories, Samusocial’s systems have highlighted the leading role played by municipalities in supporting initiatives for the children and young people in their cities.
The first phase of action (2013-2015) involved public authorities, alongside civil society, in consultation forums.
The second phase of action, which started in 2016, focuses on two operational issues for which the interaction between public and private organizations is essential.
Access to care for street children and youth
While the Sustainable Development Goals aim to “ensure that all people benefit from universal health coverage” by 2030, Samusocial International supports its local partners to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable sections of their populations are represented in the debates.
This includes establishing the status of being destitute, clarifying the referral system from associations to health centers or hospitals, and thinking about ways of financing consultations, care and drugs for the homeless.
Thanks to the efforts of Samusocial Mali, alongside the municipality of Bamako, over 50 street children and youth have already been registered under the medical assistance scheme (RAMED), which gives them access to free and unconditional care in the city’s hospitals.
Extension of services to young adults
They are between 16 and 25. They have left or are about to leave the system which ensures child welfare. They begin to have desires for financial autonomy, citizenship, and sometimes parenthood. However, the fact that they are older and their long periods of life on the street mean that the responses of the systems of Samusocial, partner associations and public institutions are insufficient.
Consequently, actors are getting involved in the field of vocational integration for street children via a networking approach, and are developing responses tailored to this public in the context of medical-psychosocial care.
Back in 2014, Samusocial Burkina Faso, a pioneer in this field, led a 3-day brainstorming workshop, with support from the Municipality of Ouagadougou, on care for young street adults. Public/private platforms, involving the economic actors in the territory, are now being set up with the aim of pooling responses, particularly for training and vocational integration.
Every year, 80 million women are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. 22 million take the risk of an unsafe abortion: 47,000 lose their lives. Yet all the means are available to avoid these deaths.
Since 2014, Doctors of the World (MdM) has been meeting the needs of women, couples and teenage girls in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Gaza, Haiti and Peru with AFD’s support. These projects are conducted in partnership with local organizations and health authorities.
Unsafe abortions: 3rd leading cause of maternal mortality
While an increasing number of countries are integrating access to contraception as a priority, these efforts do not always lead to an availability of services, and health systems continue to exclude certain categories of women, particularly unmarried women and teenage girls. Unsafe abortions, the 3rd leading cause of maternal mortality, are a public health challenge and seriously hinder economic and social development.
Today, 225 million women who would like to avoid or postpone a pregnancy still do not have access to contraception. Doctors of the World actively supports the right of every woman to use a safe and effective contraceptive method in order to avoid an unwanted pregnancy and have access to a voluntary interruption of pregnancy (VIP) which is without risks and legal, where applicable.
How to take effective action?
Doctors of the World operates on 3 levels:
1- Strengthening healthcare provision: For example, in Burkina Faso, the health centers in the Djibo district have been equipped with ultrasound scanners, and staff have been trained in how to use them, for instance, to detect fetus malformations and provide access to a termination of pregnancy in this context.
“Abortion is forbidden in Burkina Faso, unless it is a therapeutic abortion […]. The mother’s life is in danger and we try to save the mother […]. There is also hygienic abortion, often when a woman has an ultrasound scan and we see that the child inside has a malformation, in this case we can terminate the pregnancy.”
Midwife, Burkina Faso
2- Informing about sexual and reproductive rights: In Haiti, Doctors of the World works with POZ (Promoters of the Zero AIDS Objective) to run a hotline which aims to facilitate access to information about sexuality and sexuality education services for young people.
“My message is for hospitals who do not receive women who want an abortion, I would like to say to them that all women are women and that it is necessary to receive them […]. I advise all women like me who do not want to get pregnant to use family planning and use a condom.”
Mrs. Y. M, Haiti, February 2016
3- Conducting advocacy to promote and respect sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), focused on access to contraception and safe abortion. For example, last March, a delegation of parliamentarians from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and DRC participated in the symposium “The Right to Abortion: An Urgent Combat” organized by MdM in Paris.
Guaranteeing access to contraception and medical abortion for all requires the commitment of all actors, starting with governments, which must support policies that defend women’s rights. Efforts must focus as a priority on sexuality education, and especially target young people, access to comprehensive service provision for the prevention and management of unwanted pregnancies, as well as the reduction of stigma and the integration of sociocultural, economic and geographical determinants in order to allow all men and women to make their own choices.
In 2015, Doctors of the World conducted a study on the sociocultural and community determinants of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gaza and Peru. A comparative analysis, highlighting the specificities and similarities between the obstacles encountered by young women in the different contexts, is also available here.