By Meuangkham Noradeth
December 10, 2011
Investment projects in various sectors are vital to the development of villagers’ living standards in Long district of Luang Namtha province.
The lives of locals hinge particularly on assistance from the government-administered Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF), which is financed by overseas development partners.
Since 2008, the fund has been put towards a total of 131 projects in Long, Nalae and Viengphoukha districts, the poorest of the province’s five districts.
More than 22 billion kip from the fund has been spent to boost development in Luang Namtha’s education, public works and transport, public health, and agriculture sectors, according to a PRF report.
The fund has helped to build and repair schools, roads, irrigation systems, hospitals and health dispensaries in the province, and assisted locals to find work in weaving, farming and animal husbandry enterprises.
The fund was established in 2003 and aims to reduce village level poverty by 2020.
Recently, the fund has helped to improve living standards in 27 districts in the provinces of Luang Namtha, Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet, Saravan, Xekong and Attapeu.
This year it will expand operations to include an additional 12 districts in Phongsaly, Luang Prabang and Oudomxay provinces.
Most of the poor families in Long district are farmers so local officials are encouraging increased cultivation of various vegetables, sugarcane, banana, watermelon, pumpkin, rice, corn and cardamom.
District officials are also working hard to improve infrastructure, especially roads, because without access it’s difficult for officials to properly gauge villagers’ living standards and reach basic poverty alleviation goals by 2015.
As the district is among the poorest in Luang Namtha, assistance from the government, international organisations and other sectors is important to help it reach poverty alleviation targets and eradicate poverty by 2020.
The district is home to 6,629 families, of which 3,772 are living in poverty, but district officials hope they will be able to ease poverty to some extent by 2015.
The district contains a total of 70 villages, 30 percent of which are located in mountainous areas, making it difficult for local officials to visit and hindering development efforts, particularly during the rainy season.
More accessible roads are important for development, so Luang Namtha provincial Department of Public Works and Transport is planning to asphalt roads in Long district.
Asphalting roads to remote communities will boost development, trade and investment, the department’s Deputy Head, Mr Souvanhpheng Vongxay, said.
He added that paved roads will directly contribute to improved living conditions for remote people by enabling better conditions for hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants, among other investment opportunities.
Luang Namtha province comprises five districts containing 354 villages that are home to 28,908 families, of which 9,156 remain in poverty, according to the latest report from the National Leading Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication.
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.