In April 2007 students visited the Jungles of Southern Laos to work with local conservationists and help set up a sustainable rural development initiative focussed on the laboratory raising of local endangered orchid species.
In Laos the project is lead by Chansouk Southivong who is setting up a propagation laboratory to raise orchid plants from seed to be grown on by local small scale coffee farmers.
Writhlington is supporting the project in a number of ways:
Writhlington students have exported flasks of their own orchid seedlings to Laos and trained Lao partners to deflask seedlings. Trial plantings of these will identify best local practice.
In March 2008 Chansouk came to the UK to train in the Writhlington Laboratory and at the Micropropagation laboratory at Kew Gardens to learn techniques and help her prepare her own laboratory.
Students have explored the forests around Paksong to identify species with horticultural value and provide baseline data for future assessment of the success of the project in protecting wild populations.
Students have surveyed existing markets supplied by wild collected plants to analyse links between species threat and value.
At Writhlington are raising Lao species from seed and selling them in the UK at outlets including Kew Gardens and the Eden Project. Proceeds are used to fund research travel and training. The Paksong Orchid Project has also received funding from Orchid Conservation International.
Writhlington is raising further Lao species to export as practice plant material for the new laboratory in Laos.