Champassak moves closer to poverty alleviation

By Meuangkham Noradeth
July 2, 2011

Growing sweetcorn for sale is helping to improve living standards in remote areas.

Community development and improving living standards are essential if Laos is to be removed from the UN’s list of least developed countries.

The government’s plan to eradicate poverty by 2020 has made it necessary for officials nationwide to work extra hard to meet the deadline.

Officials in Pathoumphon district, Champassak province, have been working to develop their communities and hope to have eradicated basic poverty by 2015.

“We are focusing on improving infrastructure and boosting agricultural productivity because it is the best way to improve villagers’ living conditions and help Pathoumphon district reach poverty alleviation goals,” said district Governor Mr Soulivanh Savatthasinh this week.

District officials have attempted to determine the causes of poverty so they can target policies and programmes to address these challenges.

The district will be able to reach the poverty reduction target because there are factories that can employ large numbers of people. The district also has several tourist attractions, which offer villagers the opportunity to sell their crops, Mr Soulivanh said.

Local people have been encouraged to plant a wide variety of crops including rice, rubber, sweetcorn, cassava, and various types of vegetables.

Farmers are enthusiastic about growing sweetcorn for sale at local markets and cassava to supply the cassava powder factory, which will help them to earn money, he explained.

The district contains 68 villages, with a total population of 56,304 divided amongst 9,608 families. 1,288 of the families have been identified as living below the poverty line and are the target of the district’s poverty alleviation policies and initiatives.

From 2012 to 2014, officials plan to raise the standard of living for 810 poor families, and everyone in the district will be free from poverty by 2015.

Mr Soulivanh said all communities are developing every year because of government assistance.

Construction of basic infrastructure has given people access to more earning opportunities and while all 68 villages have access roads, five continue are difficult to access in the rainy season.

Officials need more funding for infrastructure improvement, especially road access to remote villages, he added.

“We are trying to relocate villages so they are closer to the district office because it will help to reduce the cost of infrastructure development and of supplying electricity,” he explained. Champassak province’s Pathoumphon, Bachiangchaleunsouk, Souk-houma, and Mounlapamok districts are on the government’s list of the 47 poorest out of 144 districts nationwide.

Because the vast majority of people living in these districts depend on farming, local officials are focussing on increasing agricultural production as a means to increase villagers’ income. They are helping local farmers to adopt modern farming techniques to increase the quantity and quality of their harvests.

District officials have also encouraged more farmers to become involved in raising livestock, including poultry and cattle, for sale and domestic use.

About 70 percent of the land in Pathoumphon district is a national forest conservation area, which is a challenge when it comes to increasing land for agricultural use.

This has to be addressed because farming is the main source of income for the majority of the district’s residents, especially poor families, said Mr Soulivanh.

Average annual per capita income in the district is now just over 6 million kip and is expected to increase to more than 8 million kip by 2015.

This demonstrates that people’s living standards are improving year by year and the number of people who now have vehicles to transport their crops to nearby markets and have permanent houses evidences this.

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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