Bokeo strives to alleviate poverty

By Meuangkham Noradeth
May 28, 2011

Many rural children work on farms to eke out a living.

Two of the core priorities of the Lao government are the eradication of poverty and the improvement of infrastructure as a step towards removing Laos from the UN’s list of Least Developed Countries.

Provincial officials in Bokeo province are utilising assistance from the government, international organisations, and other funding programmes to achieve this goal.

Funding is essential to the development of the province and the improvement of the living standards of people nationwide, said provincial Deputy Governor Mr Amphone Chanhthasomboun.

Officials in Bokeo province, and all provinces, are struggling to solve the problem of impoverishment.

“We are working hard to improve the living standards of the 5,814 households that are classified as poor,” Mr Amphone said.

The province has 279 villages – many located in remote areas – and the vast number of inhabitants are poor farmers.

To combat the problem of poverty, officials are trying to group remote villages into single units for easier administration. Their goal is to develop infrastructure and improve access to services for local residents.

There are around 163,431 people from 28,918 households in Bokeo province. Officials have supplied living space so that people who do not own land can build houses, and have provided farmland, and created work opportunities for unemployed people.

To date, provincial officials have received two billion kip in government funding to repair irrigation systems, install wells, open medical dispensaries, and build schools in remote villages, Mr Amphone said.

Developing infrastructure, especially roads, encourages more farming families to boost agricultural production and makes it easier for people to exchange goods with neighbouring villages and transport their crops and livestock to local markets.

Because the majority of villagers in Bokeo province are farmers, local authorities have been encouraging them to plant rice in both the wet and dry seasons, and to diversify their crops by planting sweetcorn and bananas as a means of increasing household income.

Officials have also been teaching locals about new farming methods that will boost crop yields and help improve their living standards.

Government funding that supports animal breeding (including pigs, goats, cattle, and poultry) is another important way to guarantee food supplies and to generate surpluses that can be sold at market.

Many farmers in the province experience lower yields because they still use traditional methods to cultivate crops, while others wait for government assistance rather than taking the initiative to improve their own lives, Mr Amphone said.

This year, provincial officials will focus on clearing land for rice and other crops, building irrigation, providing work opportunities for unemployed people, and encouraging animal husbandry.

Although the number of poor families continues to fall, it will be difficult for the province to achieve the government’s goal of alleviating basic poverty this year.

Bokeo province consists of five districts. Two of these – Meung and Pha-oudom – are among the poorest districts in the province, while Huayxai and Tonpheung districts have already declared basic poverty alleviation.

Provincial officials are trying to improve infrastructure in the poorest districts by building roads and installing clean water supply systems, and opening more schools.

Assistance from the government and international organisations is a fundamental requirement if the province is to reach poverty alleviation targets by 2015.

Average annual income in the province has risen to about 2.8 million kip per capita and the improvement in living standards is evident. Now, many local residents have their own vehicles to transport goods to market and have built permanent houses.

The Lao government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation services.


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