KAP Survey

Low Environmental Awareness in Laos

Study by MoNRE Reveals Gaps in Environmental Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices

Not many people in Laos know about complex topics such as climate change or biodiversity. Even decision makers in government institutions and opinion leaders in the mass media or in academia often lack the necessary expertise. What researchers found alarming is that almost half of the people interviewed agreed to exploit the environment or lose a species for satisfying human needs as they do not believe that the environment is in danger. These statements are among the findings of the first ever comprehensive environmental awareness survey in Laos conducted by MoNRE in cooperation with GIZ in 2012 as part of Lao-German development cooperation. The surveys major findings are summarized below with the 'Parts' and 'Annexes' mentioned refering to elements of the KAP Survey Report.

Survey Cornerstones

Sample size 1,334

Respondents 1,196 villagers and 138 urban decision makers

Focus Group Discussions 220 in 55 villages

Locations Vientiane Capital, Khammouane, Houaphanh and Sayaboury Provinces

Time Frame 10 Sept to 16 Nov, 2012

Teams Survey team (19) of MoNRE and NUoL staff + data team (6) + ProCEEd support team (4)


Climate Change Knowledge Index (ccKNOW)

Climate Change Awareness Index (ccA)

Positive Environmental Attitude Index (eATT+)

Negative Environmental Practice Index (ePRACT-)

Environmental Risk Index (eRISK)

Correlations & Cross Tabulation

Trusted Media Preference (TMP)

Consistency of Environmental Awareness (CEA)

Target Audience Differentiation (TAD)

Most Relevant Topics (MRT)

Comparison Groups

gender: male - female

location: urban - rural

age: young – medium – old

education: low – medium – high

provinces: Vientiane, Khammouane, Houaphan, Sayaboury

financial situation: low – medium – high

sectors: 1-MoNRE, 2-other ministries,       3-academia, 4-mass media, 5-mass         organizations, 6-CSO, 7-private

ProCEEd is a development project of the Lao Government supported by the Federal Government of Germany through the provision of technical assistance (GIZ). It is implemented by the Department of Environ-mental Quality Promotion (DEQP) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) in close cooperation with relevant partners at national and sub-national level. The overall project term is designed for one phase of three years – from December 2011 to November 2014.  ProCEEd is a technical cooperation module within the “Sustainable Climate-friendly Management of the Environment and Natural Resources” (SusCliME) program.

The survey on knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) – or KAP Survey for short – serves a double function as the baseline for impact-oriented monitoring and as a point of departure for the 10-step communication strategy in the context of the ProCEEd project’s mandate regarding environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and climate change. The survey was implemented in four stages:

1 survey and questionnaire design, prepared in August 2012 (see Part 2.1 - 2.3),

2 preparation, training, team building, KAP survey implementation in Vientiane Capital, preliminary data analysis and presentation during 3-20 Sept, 2012 (see Part 2.4 and 3),

3 KAP survey implementation in Khammouane, Houaphanh and Sayaboury provinces, preliminary data analysis and presentation during 22 Oct to 22 Nov, 2012 (see Part 3 and 4), and

4 preliminary data analysis and KAP Survey Report, incl. a presentation of major survey results and recommendations for the ProCEEd communication strategy, and a Mission Report, all prepared between 26 Nov to 15 Dec, 2012 (see Part 4 and 5).

The general design of the KAP survey was guided by two conceptual principles: (1) state-of-the-art methods and tools in line with international empirical social research standards embedded in a (2) pragmatic approach accommodating the specific local conditions in Laos. Individual interviews generating quantitative data were combined with focus group discussions (FGD) resulting in qualitative information. Consequently, a semi-structured survey questionnaire comprising 30 questions on demographic information, media preferences as well as knowledge, attitudes and practices related to environmental awareness was designed. The same accounts for a focus group discussion guideline (see Annexes B5 and B6).

Five survey teams were established that comprised 19 staff members from MoNRE and NUoL in addition to the STE and his assistant. These teams and a six-strong data team responsible for data entry, processing and analysis were trained in a KAP workshop 5-7 Sept, 2012 (see Part 4.3). Variables and other parameters for data analysis were determined and defined for composite indexes by means of which environmental awareness can be measured and compared. In addition, correlat­ions between media consumption, environmental information sources and trust in communication channels, a target audience differentiation  and the consistency of environmental awareness as well as a cross tabulation on most relevant topics were added (see Part 4, KAP Survey Report).

The sub-surveys were conducted consecutively in Vientiane on 10-14 Sept, 2012, Khammouane on 23-28 Oct, 2012, Houaphanh on 5-10 Nov, 2012 and Sayaboury on 12-16 Nov, 2012 (see Part 4.4). Preliminary results of the KAP sub-surveys in Vientiane, Khammouane and Houaphanh were presented to and discussed with MoNRE and ProCEEd staff members on 19-21 Nov, 2012.

The most important findings from the KAP Survey and the conclusions for ProCEEd’s Environmental Education and Communication (EEC) strategy can be outlined as follows (see the Report's Part 5.3):

findings from the KAP survey

conclusions for the EECS

Focus  Group Discussions

Villagers often attribute climate and environmental changes to their seasonal agricultural calendar and the natural resources such as land, forest, water etc. their livelihood depends on. The loss of species is noticed.

There is no clear distinction between ‘climate change’ and ‘the environment’ but awareness that climate change and environmental degradation are contributed to by humans, including the villagers themselves.

Respondents feel that something can be done to avoid further harm to the environment. References were made to major environmental polluters based on an awareness of the concept of common vs. private goods.

Waste disposal and sanitation, human health and livestock diseases as well as drinking and irrigation water supply are bigger than expected problems in villages.

Identify change agents at the district level who ProCEEd’s media and education service providers can cooperate with. These should act as role models and opinion leaders who distribute mass media and other environmental information within their peer groups.

A focus could be on climate change adaptation, biodiversity and environmental protection with links to livelihood topics in relation with subsis­tence farming and disaster risk management.


Knowledge related to climate change (KC1, KC2[1]) is confused at best, even among urban respondents such as MoNRE/DoNRE, academia or CSO.

Even education and financial situation do not significantly help with the right answers. Nevertheless, the poorer the respondents, the higher the chance that they have “never heard of climate change”.

Some decision makers and opinion leaders in Vientiane do not do much better than many rural respondents despite their higher socio-economic status and educational level.

There is a high expectation that the Lao government (KC3) should protect forests, enforce environmental laws, protect animals and plants and adapt land use planning. But respondents “need more” or “have no information at all” (KE4) on these issues and climate change.

Decision makers know little more about climate change than the other respondents: This key result calls for an all-out ‘heating-up society’ approach that engages a wide range of media and education activities over an extended period.

As even decision makers and opinion leaders are not sufficiently informed about climate change, biodiversity conservation and environmental protection, targeted capacity development and (journalist) training is necessary.


What most respondents from rural areas associate with the environment (AE1) is mostly “natural disasters”, followed by “protecting nature” and the future-oriented “quality of the natural environment”. Individuals and the government are almost equally rendered “responsible for improving the environment”. In urban areas, “pollution” ranks higher than “protecting nature”.

A utilitarian ‘careless’ attitude (AE2) is reflected in statements such as “exploiting/ destroy­ing the environment is justified if it brings an economic benefit” or “it is all right to lose a species in your area in order to satisfy your human needs”. Rural respondents have a higher tendency to state that there is nothing they can do „to change environmental conditions“ than urban ones who show a higher tendency to think that “science and technology will be able to make up”.

Some of the highest livelihood risks (AE3-AE4), e.g. natural disasters, are related to climate change or its potential impacts. Other risks such as deforestation are more related to environmental protection. Health risks, livestock disease and access to drinking water come next, even before loss of land. Man-made risks such as the use of pesticides or growing waste volumes range lower.

Lip-service is paid to taking care of the environ­ment (AE5): Respondents  overwhel­mingly state their commit­ment but when it comes to taking action people do not know what to do, have no time or no money.

In addition to livelihood topics, the EECS subject matters should address people’s policy expecta­tions and thematic priorities. At the local level, specific issues can be added.

One of the EECS’s key messages should be that the environment and its biodiversity and other resources indeed are in danger of being over-exploited while stressing the appreciation of nature and its assets at the same time. This should counterbalance the careless utilitarian attitudes of Lao society.

Positive examples from various groups in Lao society should be high­lighted which prove that “something can be done” to take care of the environment. Information about these positive examples should be spread through mass media and the facilitation of learning, discussion or radio listening groups.

This should set in motion and support a two-step flow of communication from national and provincial mass media to opinion leaders at the local level, and from them to their peer groups through interpersonal communication channels.

Alarmingly, almost half the people believe that the environment is not in danger. Measures to solve environmental problems (AE6) are predominantly seen in “stricter law enforcement”, “awareness raising at school”, “relying on self-help initiatives of rural communities” and through mass media”.

People are willing to take action (AE7) by stopping slash and burn practices as well as burning waste at home, and even to hunt less. The commitment is much less when it comes to a halt in buying wild animal meat or to using less pesticide.

Respondents make “protect the environment” their second most important topic on a national policy agenda (AE8) after “educa­tion”, “health­care” and “corruption”.


A two-thirds majority of male and female household members is involved in rice-related and garden activities (PE1-PE2) and other subsistence-oriented activities. All activities which are potentially harmful to the environment such as hunting, non-forest timber products, tree cutting and firewood reportedly play an insignificant role. It should be kept in mind though that all the respondents’ statements during individual interviews express self-assessments which do not necessarily reflect reality.

Action-oriented attitude and practice change should start from easy and tangible steps but not shy away from tackling more difficult issues such as pesticide risks.

Sustenance and food consumption practices (PE1-PE2): Meat is a rare treat in rural areas from whatever source but fish is predominantly supplied from rivers and lakes once a week or more. Even though greens grown at family-owned gardens are the major supply on a daily basis, a high amount of greens from the forest are consumed as well.

The focus of media and non-formal education activities should be on activities and policies which are potentially harmful to the environment. Climate change adaptation practices are already ongoing. Innovative rationales for agricultural and climate change adaptation should complement these issues.

The forest products used most in households (PE4-PE5) are firewood and food, followed by fish and traditional housing material.

The reported land use planning and farming adjustments by farmers (PE6-PE8) seem reasonable from an agricultural and climate change adaptation perspective. Among the reasons for difficulties in changing farming practices, respondents often stated “not enough money”.

Media Preferences

In general, media consumption patterns (M1) in rural areas are dominated by conversations even before watching TV. Internet, newspapers and books are preferred by highly educated respondents in urban areas.

The Trusted Media Preference correlation shows that some frequented and trusted media are irrelevant for the EECS (e.g. popular Thai TV), some are frequented but not entirely trusted (e.g. conversations), some are highly trusted but not frequented often (e.g. government organisations, village authorities). But village authorities as well as TV and radio are communication channels which are ranked highly and trusted as well (ME2-3). Other sources of information are highly trusted but not necessarily ranked prominently for environmental information, e.g. community meetings, all mass organizations, schools/teachers or environmental organizations.

National, provincial and district government organizations take a high position as they are consistently ranked and highly trusted.

The “Open Heart – Open Airwave” TV pro­gram produced by students with the provincial TV stations in Houaphanh and Luang Prabang as well as the environmental radio drama program of Radio Luang Prabang (the same is planned by Radio Houaphanh) showcase promising examples of regular participatory broadcasting.

Radio is also the only mass media that has a potential for moderated listening groups and that attracts all audiences – from poor farmers to urban academics.

Newspapers are highly relevant to reach decision makers and opinion leaders at all level.

Especially in rural areas, there is a high relevance of interpersonal and community-based communication channels: High trust in village authorities, community meetings, mass organizations such as LWU/LYU, high frequency of conversations.

Focus group discussions revealed a high potential for infotainment because both information and entertainment are hard to come by in the countryside.

The cooperation potential should be identified with mass media such as LNR, LNTV, Lao Star TV, MoICT as well as video and film as well as other media producers who could function as service providers and partners in the EECS.

Such cooperation schemes should also be extended to provincial and district media and service providers.

The cooperation potential with existing media interventions by WCS, UNICEF, Houaphanh and Luang Prabang Radio and TV should be identified. The latter could be used as a cost-efficient training and pro­duction hub in Northern Laos.

At least one of the leading news­papers (Pasason, Vien­tiane Times etc.) should be contacted for a regular environ­mental column.

Service providers for non-formal environmental edu­cation materials (e.g. local theatre/puppet shows, teaching aids, games, environmental bus concepts etc.) should be identified among the mass organizations (e.g. LWU/LYU) and established NGOs.

Comparison Group Differentiation

Generally, there are only small differences between gender and age comparison groups.

Province and location do play a role especially in Vientiane where the relatively highly educated and wealthy 44 respondents fare differently from rural areas.

However, educational level and financial situation matters, for knowledge-, attitude- and practice-related questions.

Little target audience differen­tiation is needed. Hence, mass media coverage could start from any intervention level with re-broadcasts at all other levels.

Change agents with higher education and financial status should be identified at the local level where they could serve as role models and opinion leaders, possibly even from environmen­tally relevant enterprises (energy efficiency, eco-tourism etc.).

Decision makers and opinion leaders need awareness raising and training, possibly with a strong responsibility appeal.

Decision makers and opinion leaders in MoNRE/DoNRE, other government organizations do better than the rest but –similar to journalists in the mass media – their knowledge is not high and consistent enough to take a lead in communicating the complex topic of climate change.

The at times erratic and inconsistent answers that respondents provided to questions in the interviews could mostly be balanced at a higher level of data analysis where a multitude of variables (answers) from several questions were combined in five indexes, three correlations and one cross tabulation (see Part 5.2.3) which mostly use scoring and multiplication formula. Related results can be summarized as follows:

  • High scores in the Climate Change Knowledge index clearly correlate with urban location, high education, and a well-to-do financial situation. Surprisingly, the highly educated respondents from Vientiane and the poorest respondents have the lowest score in the Climate Change Awareness index.  Two-thirds of MoNRE/DoNRE and other government organizations’ respondents put their words into action as indicated in the Consistency of Environmental Awareness correlation which is based on the hypothesis that high environmental knowledge will lead to positive environmental attitudes and high motivation, and, in combination, will result in environmentally friendly practices.
  • Respondents with a high education and financial status top the Positive Environmental Attitude index. Urban respondents fare better than rural ones in the Negative Environmental Practice index and the more educated and wealthy respondents are, the less they engage in potentially harmful practices to the environment. This confirms studies indicating that practices with potential negative environmental impacts are often consequences of structural poverty and the lack of access to information and education. CSOs show best practices of all urban institutions, followed by MoNRE/DoNRE and academia. Gender and age have hardly any effect on the Environmental Risk index. Respondents from Vientiane, especially from CSOs and academia, expose the least risky attitudes and practices.
  • TV and radio as well as peer group conversations clearly are the most trusted and most frequented media and communication channels in the Trusted Media Preference correlation. Radio is a common denominator for all comparison groups, even for academia. The Internet and newspapers are frequented more by urban, educated and wealthy users while conversations prevail in rural areas, and for the poor and less educated. If trust in environmental information is empha­sized, TV and radio are still in the lead but village authorities, community meetings or teachers gain in importance while conversations and the Internet become less relevant. The older and the more educated a respondent is, the higher is the Trusted Media Preference for TV, Internet, newspapers and books while radio, community meeting and village authorities are easy-access media that the poor and the less educated tend to trust more.
  • The Target Audience Differentiation correlation provides a profile on social predispositions to change of four major segments of the target population. The top 15% performers (‘early adopters’) may become future ‘change agents’ of ProCEEd’s EECS and the other segments can be regarded sub-categories of future target audiences. The distribution of the total number and percentage of respondents per comparison group (gender, age, location etc.) across the four segments of the target population (early adopters etc.) is displayed in a special Target Audience Differentiation database (see Part 5.2.3) and will be applied in the context of specific target audience locations in the future. For example, the general social profile for the total sample’s 200 early adopters is 66% male, 68% rural, 56%old, 38% from Sayaboury, 42% low-educated, 42% with a high financial status, 8% each from other Government organisations.
  • The Most Relevant Topics cross tabulation provides an overview of respondents’ thematic preferences across seven variables which can be used as a point of departure for the ProCEEd EECS’s future content development and thematic orientation of strategy. Topics mentioned most often are: natural disasters and/or natural resources management including forest protection, adaptation to climate change and/or other environmental changes, food from subsistence activities, and public health care.

The KAP Survey is part of Step 2 of an overall 10-step communication strategy which ProCEEd will employ in 2013-2014 in order to reach its objectives: “Knowledge, attitudes and behaviour related to the environment, biodiversity and climate change in Laos have improved through communication and education”. The recommended draft EEC strategy foresees radio and TV programs or, alternatively, a national ‘Environmental Magazine’ format on TV and/or radio, and a ‘Green Corner’ in one of the major newspapers/magazines. Regarding educational activities village listening groups, an ‘Environmental Bus’ concept, local theatre, art competitions and a travelling exhibition are recommended. All media and educational activities should be multi-purpose in nature, i.e. interrelated and mutually supporting each other (see Part 6).

[1] The codes in brackets all refer to the coded questions in the KAP survey questionnaire (see Annex 4)



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