Xieng Khuang builds bridges out of poverty

By Meuangkham Noradeth
December 31, 2011

Children play and fish in a river.

Infrastructure in Kham district, Xieng Khuang province, is being progressively upgraded year by year, providing opportunities for local people to change their lifestyles for the better by selling crops in nearby markets.

The district’s economy is expanding at an average 7-8 percent per year and this will help the community to move closer to reaching basic poverty alleviation by 2014.

“We are confident we can achieve basic poverty alleviation because living standards here have improved significantly and the villagers are determined to change their lives for the better,” Kham district Deputy Governor Mr Singnavong Phanlakham said this week.

The district has 98 villages, 28 of which are located in very remote areas and access can be difficult or impossible during the rainy season. Of course, this isolation makes it very hard for people to raise their standard of living. Even though they may produce surplus crops they have no way to get them to markets so they can sell them, and also lack a supply of clean water.

Mr Singnavong said that irrigation systems have been expanded in remote areas so villagers can produce dry season crops for sale. This will make it a little easier for them to put money aside and move further along the road out of poverty.

All villages in the community have now have a primary school, and children receive a basic education which over time will contribute to the development of their villages.

But Mr Singnavong said the district lacks funds to further improve infrastructure in many remote villages, so assistance from many sectors is important for development.

Recently, the Japanese government provided funding and technical support to build two suspension bridges over a river that made access to markets difficult for the villagers of Phonthan and Phosy in particular.

Kham district is officially classified as poor, but officials here are working hard and fighting to significantly improve living standards by 2014.

“We are trying to build roads and install clean water supplies in many remote villages. Even though people may produce surplus crops they have no way to get them to markets so they can sell them,” Mr Singnavong said.

The number of poor families has fallen every year and the figure now stands at 809. Each year, district officials try to raise about 300 families out of poverty, hoping to rid all communities of poverty as soon as possible.

The people of Xieng Khuang province have suffered from poverty for many years, but with the government’s target of eradicating poverty by 2020 a clear goal, the number of poor families is slowly but steadily decreasing. Currently, the average per capita income is more than 5 million kip. The target for 2014 is about 8 million kip.

The government has helped to improve basic infrastructure development in the province and helped villagers to boost crop yields and livestock rearing. District officials are encouraging villagers to grow a variety of commercial crops such as corn, rice, vegetables, garlic and chilli, now that they have better access to markets.

At present, some villages still have no road access. But provincial officials plan to build new roads so more people can forge trade links with nearby communities.

Xieng Khuang province has nine districts and contains 512 villages that are home to 41,048 families. Of those, 5,902 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.


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