In rural Laos, land is life

The Issues

The vast majority of Lao families depend on land for their food and income. As Laos continues to develop, villagers’ land is increasingly sought after by government and private enterprises for mining, hydropower, commercial farming, and other industries. It is vital for villagers to understand their land rights and options to be able to negotiate and protect their interests. Unfortunately, many villagers are unaware of their rights, most land in Laos lacks clear ownership, and existing land regulations are poorly enforced. Many villagers may therefore lose tenure over the land they live on, which can cause them to lose income, exploit natural resources unhealthily, or fall victim to exploitation themselves.

Our work

Over the past eight years, VFI became a national leader in land issues in Laos through taking a community-centric and justice-oriented approach, following the tactics outlined below. Visit independent website for more in-depth information about our program and a repository of land rights resources.

The Land Information Learning Center is a collaborative and open space for learning about land and natural resource challenges in Laos and their impact on local communities. The Center is joint an initiative by the Land Information Working Group, hosted by Village Focus International, with support from Mekong Region Land Governance and the Open Development Initiative.

VFI in partnership with East-West Management Institute (EWMI) constructed the Open Development Initiative (ODI) project to support the transparent sharing and analysis of data to improve and inform constructive dialogue and decision making for sustainable and equitable development. Open Development Laos (ODL) is part of the Open Development Network, a coalition of organizations co-managing a common open data and open knowledge platform aggregating and sharing information, maps and data to illuminate development trends in the Mekong region at country and regional levels to promote a healthy sustainable and responsible data ecosystem. Visit the page on Land and Land transfers and public land leases as link attached.

  • Community empowerment

    We deliver trainings to villages on land tenure, farming practices, and conflict resolution so villages can better understand their land rights and control and profit from their resources.

    • Reached 15,000+ villagers in 105 communities through trainings, information distribution, and conflict resolution
    • Conducted boundary mapping and land use planning to enhance land rights and community management
  • Access to justice

    We work with government officials to protect villages’ land rights and mediate land disputes, while also enhancing villages’ legal advocacy structures for sustainable access to justice mechanisms.

    • Trained 3,300 government officials at provincial and district levels on communities’ land rights and government responsibilities
    • Formed 105 Village Mediation Units and trained 159 village paralegal volunteers
  • Alliance building

    We foster relationships with and facilitate negotiations between the Lao government, private sector, and villages to ensure Lao communities are informed in business deals affecting their land.

    • Organized and participated in dozens of land rights events to network with more than 12,000 participants
    • Created a national land network with more than 70 organizations, including civil society, government, and the private sector
  • Information dissemination

    We distribute a range of tools and materials to educate communities about land rights in accessible ways.

    • Produced and distributed an annual land rights calendar, 12 videos addressing common land issues, educational posters, and legal guidebooks
    • Created a resource center to equip Lao people to research land issues and learn more about their land rights

Success in Pachutai Village

Pachutai Village in Taoi District, Salavan Province was among the first villages to participate in VFI’s boundary mapping and land use planning process. A VFI team, villagers and district officials carried out an extensive exercise that produced a comprehensive plan for how Pachutai village would use their land and resources. The village decided to protect a spirit forest on their land that contained high value hardwood trees with spiritual significance to the Pachutai villagers. The plan was approved and signed by district authorities.

But just three weeks after approval, district officials brought a logging company to the village to cut trees in the spirit forest so the land could be used for a logging concession. The village refused to give permission to the company, and the issue was brought to provincial officials, who ruled in favor of the village. The village’s protected forest remained untouched, and the community learned how to successfully defend their rights and their land.

Pachutai Village’s success created a precedent for nearby villages to begin working alongside government officials to manage their land. The case demonstrates the need for carrying out land use planning in a participatory manner and the benefits of allowing communities to control their own resources.


“Now district officials know how to communicate and train at the community level. They now understand villagers’ land rights and needs. They did not have this knowledge earlier.”

Mr. Thongsavanh Keonakhone,
Head of Planning and Cooperation division
Department of Agricultural Land Management

“Some conflicts over land occupation at the village level have been resolved as a result of heightened awareness, skills and determination to solve the problems on the part of both villagers and authorities.”

Mr. Nor Inthaseth
District Agriculture and Forestry Office,
Paksan district, Bolikhamxay province

Subscribe to receive our news and activities

© Village Focus International. All rights reserved.


Phonsavanh Tai village, Sisattanak district, Vientiane capital, Lao PDR.