The McConnell Foundation began supporting the Lao Ecology Small Grant program in 2017 to support local conservation efforts and to bolster Lao civil society.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is home to important populations of many globally threatened species and includes large areas of relatively intact forest habitat. However, this biodiversity is under ever-increasing threat from unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, illegal hunting and logging, hydropower and infrastructure development, and the expansion of commercial agriculture. Lao PDR is in the heart of the Indo-Burma Critical Ecosystems Hotspot, which is comprised of Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and parts of southern China. With high levels of plant and animal endemism and limited remaining natural habitat, Indo-Burma is one of the world’s top ten biodiversity hotspots, and one of the most threatened. The need for a strong, vibrant civil society in Lao PDR that can effectively address environmental issues has never been greater.

The socio-political environment for Civil Society in Lao PDR, particularly for environmental activism, is challenging, and is therefore less developed than in other countries in the region.  With the Lao Ecology Small Grant program, The McConnell Foundation aims to multi-solve for environmental conservation solutions, local ownership, and strengthening of the nonprofit sector. The goal of the program is to empower local civil society organizations to implement activities that conserve biodiversity and sustainably manage natural resources upon which local livelihoods depend.

This program is implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Laos. The program supports small grants for local civil society organizations working in the areas of biodiversity conservation, sustainable livelihoods, waste management, and capacity of civil society organizations. A call for proposals is announced via multiple media sources, including IUCN’s website, and applications undergo a collaborative review process. Below are some examples of projects funded through this program:

  • The Wildlife Conservation Association: Mitigation of devastating threats to the threatened wildlife species in the central Annamite mountains at the Laving-Lavern National Protected Area through strengthening community awareness and law enforcement
  • Friends of Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden: Permaculture training for Lao ethnic farming communities
  • Lao Biodiversity Association: Corypha palm (Ton Lan) forest management and handicraft production improvement at Lamam district, Sekong
  • Village Focus International: Eco-market at the Green Earth Center
  • Village Focus International: Forest-Friendly Livelihood Training for Young Farmers
  • The Educational Quality Improvement and Promotion Association: Garbage Bank
  • Association or Ecotourism in Konglor Natane: Ecotourism Support in Natane Valley
  • Xiengkhuang Association for the Rehabilitation of the Quality of Life of People with Disabilities and UXO Survivors: Sericulture for environmental protection

The McConnell Foundation is proud to support local solutions that protect the natural biodiversity of Lao PDR and care for the people who rely on it. We are grateful to the nonprofits committed to this work and the staff of IUCN who are dedicated to supporting an environment for shared learning.

Mushroom farming opens new opportunities

Net lives in Horkong Village in southern Laos and at a very young age she stopped going to school because she had to help her family make a living on [...]

For more information on The McConnell Foundation’s International Programs, please visit, or email the Director of International Programs, Jesica Rhone, on the sustainability page contact form.

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