Women champions conserving the environment for the next generation

Blogs, In the field, Infrastructure & environment, Women's rights article written on the 25 Feb 2016

Honkeo in her role as a Community Fishery Facilatator.

By Oxfam Inclusion Project, Oxfam Phnom Penh.

Honkeo has a big vision: to empower Indigenous communities and to help them conserve their natural resources for the next generation.

As a lead advocate for the Japanese International Volunteer Centre (JVC) on gender and conservation issues, she raises awareness of men and women’s roles in livelihood activities; speaking about why gender matters in community development and the added value women bring to benefit conservation and fishery management.

In Lawhai village where she works, livelihoods have been centered on rice farming, fishing, riverbanks gardening, and collecting forest non-timber products for generations.

“Nature [the land, the forests and the rivers] is life for our indigenous communities,” says Honkeo.

Men work as rice farmers and fishermen, and raise big livestock (such as cows and buffaloes) while women feed small livestock and grow vegetables along the Xe Tamouak River. Fish like Pla jart, Pla Pak, Pla Duk (catfish), and snakehead fish are the main diet of her community.

As such a valuable resource, fishery resources are seen as an inheritance to pass on to the next generations of her community.

Honkeo’s community set up their community fishery to help them to manage their fish stocks, and conserve fish by avoiding illegal fishing.

Honkeo’s hope is to empower her community, and promote gender equality in conservation and resource management.

“If women know their roles, they will contribute more. I want other ethnic women to have power like me. When I talk and work with them and see that they understand more, that gives me strength,” says Honkeo.

Community fisheries have been a successful way of enhancing solidarity within communities in resource conservation. Villagers from Na Kanong (of the Makong ethnic group) and Kham Sa Eii (of the Phou Thai ethnic group), where Honkeo works, had disputed over land in the past. Through joint monitoring and management of community fishery project called Van Nang, we have seen restored relationships between both villages, and seen them enhance their collaboration in monitoring and setting up regulations for the fishery.

Honkeo identified this process as a big success. Vang-Nang fishery conservation zone in Na Kanong village is known as the area of spiritual significance and a spawning ground for fish.

“Na Kong and Kham Sa Eii villagers ignored each other for a long time, ever since they had land conflict; now the relationship is a lot better since they work together in community fishery,” says Honkeo.

Experience from Vang-Nang and other community fisheries nearby– including one in Lawhai village called Vang-Khong — showed that community fisheries are a resource management model that sustains fishery resources for the poor and the next generations. JVC aims to set up five more fishery conservation zones in Savannakhet province of Laos by 2017.

The Oxfam Inclusion Project works with JVC and women champions like Honkeo to promote community fishery management in the south of Laos, to ensure that fishery resources are protected for the next generation.

You can help communities to protect their fisheries and sustain their food sources into the future. By making a general donation to Oxfam, you’ll be helping to provide long-term change — helping people grow more food, educate their children, and lead healthy, productive lives.

Honkeo Duangdy was born in the Bru Indigenous community in the village of Xe-Kue in the rural south of Laos. She works as a Community Fishery Facilitator with the Japanese International Volunteer Centre (JVC).