Laos, a mountainous landlocked country in Southeast Asia, is characterized by rich multi-ethnicity: the country comprises more than 30 ethnic groups. Laos is still one of the least developed countries in the world, even though its rising Human Development Index value does indicate that improvements have been made over the course of the past decade. In terms of agriculture, public policy is characterized by a two-part model: working with smallholder farmers to reduce poverty via agricultural development and promoting market-oriented concessions to foreign investors (mainly for hevea – the rubber tree –, but also for corn, manioc, etc.). These concessions have a big impact on the natural environment.
Smallholder families for the most part practice subsistence farming, which, for many mountain-dwelling ethnicities in northern Laos, means the traditional exploitation of forest resources, a practice still common today. There is still a high level of inequality, and for many smallholder families, agricultural production is heavily affected by climate conditions and variability (flooding and erratic droughts). However, it is essential to support smallholder production (whose economic potential is currently being underexploited) in order to show that this path toward development, whereby natural resources are utilized in a respectful way, is relevant to Laos.
AVSF works to address the major challenges of smallholder farmers in the northern Nam Phak region and in Khammouane Province.
What we do:
- Supporting small-scale livestock farming and animal health: training and installing village animal health assistants and supporting the central veterinary services.
- Sustainably managing natural resources: supporting the implementation of new regulations for sustainable agricultural management and practices that allow for better integration of crop and livestock farming.
- Promoting smallholder production: supporting the integration of new producer organizations into local and international markets.
- Developing small-scale irrigation systems
Laos is also one of the countries where VWB/VSF Canada sends volunteers through their “Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities” project, to reinforce the capacities of local partner organizations in the Sapon district.