December 24, 2010Poverty remains an obstacle to develop-ment nationwide, but encouraging larger crop yields is an important way to help boost living standards, as officials are trying to do in Xienghone district, Xayaboury province.
Xayaboury comprises 10 districts, of which Xayaboury and Xienghone are on the government’s list of 47 poorest districts nationwide. Locals have been farming for many centuries and district officials believe combining local knowledge with modern farming techniques is key for poverty reduction.
“We are encouraging villagers to produce a variety crops to sell, including rice and vegetables,” said district Deputy Governor Mr Douangta Xayvuth this week.
Although the number of poor families is steadily declining year by year the district cannot achieve basic poverty alleviation this year because some people still live in poor conditions and are waiting for assistance.
However, district officials are confident they will be able to declare basic poverty reduction by 2012.
The district has more 3,000 hectares of rice fields and 2,600 hectares of Job’s tears which are expected to increase in the future as villagers boost production for sale, Mr Douangta said.
Villagers compete to grow Job’s tears to sell to a Chinese-owned factory in the district.
A Chinese company also has a concession of about 4,500 hectares to grow rubber trees, which provides local people with employment.
Mr Douangta said infrastructure development and teaching new farming methods to poor families helped them to expand their farming and animal husbandry activities, and are important factors in improving their living standards.
But officials have difficulty getting farmers to move away from using old fashioned techniques that result in low yields, though they continue to educate locals about improved agricultural practices.
The district has only two markets so officials have set up eight groups who go directly to villages to buy surplus crops so villagers can be sure to sell all of their produce.
Of some 6,036 families living in the district, 1,328 are still living below the poverty line, he added.
All villages in the district can be accessed by road but only 30 percent can be accessed all year round.
District officials are hoping eight remote villages will be connected to the electricity grid this year. So far 27 villages in the district are hooked up and all villages are slated to have electricity by 2013.
The average annual income in the province now stands at more than 5 million kip, and is expected to rise in the near future.
Now that people understand the government’s development policies they want to change their lifestyles for the better, Mr Douangta added.
The government’s Poverty Reduction Fund has so far invested 500 million kip in improvements to basic infrastructure.