Road access key to development in Khammuan

By Meuangkham Noradeth
June 18, 2011

Road access to remote areas is an important factor for development and improving villagers' living standards.

Development in Khammuan province is ham-pered by poor infrastructure – especially the lack of road access to remote areas – but provincial officials are implementing a plan to eradicate basic poverty by 2013.

Officials are striving to reach poverty alleviation targets as fast as possible, while the government is trying to develop the country and improve the quality of life for all people so Laos can be removed from the UN’s list of Least Developed Countries by 2020.

Khammuan province has nine districts, of which Bualapha and Nakai are among the 47 poorest districts in the nation. This means that provincial authorities have to work harder to improve the living standards of people in those districts as a first step to reaching basic poverty alleviation.

Living standards of people in the province are improving year by year. A 2010 survey showed there were about 4,667 poor families, mostly living in remote areas, Khammuan province Deputy Governor Odai Soudaphone said.

Provincial officials are developing rural communities, especially in Bualapha and Nakai districts, by encouraging crop cultivation and raising animals for consumption and local sale. These changes will help local people to raise themselves out of poverty.

Another problem is that poor road access makes it difficult for villagers to transport crops to markets, Mr Odai said.

Only 387 villages have access roads that are usable year round and another 175 villages still have difficulty travelling in the rainy season. This is why infrastructure improvement is necessary for the development of communities and the improvement of villagers’ living standards.

The battle against poverty is focused on the cultivation of rice, cassava, vegetables, and raising cows, chickens, and goats.

Khammuan province covers a total area of 16,315 sq km, and comprises mountainous and plateau areas. The plateau covers 46.3 percent of the province and is suitable for farming and animal husbandry.

“We have consolidated neighbouring villages into a single village because it’s easier to manage infrastructure development and there will be more space for crop and animal farming,” Mr Odai explained.

Some areas of Khammuan province have poor basic infrastructure and it is difficult to improve villagers’ living standards without assistance from the government, international organisations and the private sector, he said.

“Provincial officials are determined to achieve basic poverty reduction by 2013 and seven of the nine districts in the province have already attained this goal.”

The average annual per capita income in the province is more than seven million kip and the income of local people will increase as they produce surplus crops and animals for sale.

“We’ve sent officials to help with development efforts in all nine districts – focusing on Bualapha and Nakai – and to offer assistance with farming because rural development is a priority.”

Mr Odai said Nakai district has recently received more than 750 million kip in funding from the government to support animal husbandry.

Distict officials are encouraging villagers – especially poor families – to farm, raise animals, and catch fish in the Nam Theun 2 reservoir and then sell their surplus goods to increase income levels and improve living standards. The authorities are confident that increasing agricultural production is the most efficient way to reach poverty reduction targets.

In addition to promoting farming , officials have built access roads to 18 villages and will eventually link all 29 villages in the district.

The livelihoods of villagers have been enhanced because of the access roads, which enable them to sell their crops at local markets.

The living conditions of villagers in the district have improved yearly since the government set the goal of alleviating poverty by 2013.

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.

Where do you go to school?

I go to Sithan-Tai Secondary School, where I’m final year.

What’s your favourite subject?

I like biology because this subject gives me more standing about the working of the human organs.

What’s your least favourite subject?

I’m taking nine subjects this semester, and they’re all important. I need to pass them all and get a higher score.

What do you want to do when you leave school?

I’d like to be policewoman and help to protect people from the anti-social trends that seem to be developing in our society.

What are your hobbies?

I like reading books and magazines and playing sports as well as more important things like planting trees and giving blood. This week I appreciated having the chance to help by giving blood on World Blood Donor Day.

If you could travel abroad which country would you visit?

I’d go to the United States because it is a modern country with advanced technology. I’d also like to explore their traditions and culture.

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