By Meuangkham Noradeth
February 4, 2012
Agricultural production is an important factor in improving the living conditions of Mr Sy Bounheuang’s family in Longkhou village, Viengxay district, Huaphan province, enabling them to rise above poverty.
People in remote areas have depended on farming and animal husbandry activities to earn a living for many centuries, which makes it a logical decision to encourage increased agricultural production as a means to improve villagers’ living standards.
Mr Sy’s family of seven have earned a living through farming for many years, having initially planted bananas on three hectares to bring in more than 15 million kip per year.
However, Mr Sy said the income derived from bananas alone was insufficient, so he decided to plant sweetcorn on a further three hectares to earn another 15 million kip per year, tea on one hectare to earn 15 million kip per year, and rice on one hectare to bring in 15 million kip per year.
He said they also planted various other crops and breed fish, so that each member of the family now earns around 54 million kip per year.
Mr Sy’s family is a prime example of how rural people can lift themselves out of poverty through hard work.
“I plan to plant up to 10 hectares of sweetcorn and various crops, and to rear poultry, so that our total income tops 440 million kip per year,” he explained.
While all families in Viengxay district are trying to improve their living standards, Mr Sy’s family is a wonderful example of how to produce a variety of crops for sale, district Deputy Governor Mr Khamhom Mixay said this week.
The living conditions of villagers in the community continue to change for the better year by year, but district officials are still unsure whether they will be able to reach basic poverty alleviation by 2015.
Mr Khamhom said the district still has poor infrastructure, especially roads enabling access to remote villages.
The district has 103 villages, of which only 40 have roads that are accessible all year round, which makes it difficult for people to transport their crops for sale during the rainy season.
Some 80 percent of the district is mountainous, which means most villagers cannot plant rice, so officials are encouraging them to plant sweetcorn, beans and a variety of other vegetables instead.
“We are encouraging larger-scale agricultural production because it is an important factor in improving living conditions here,” Mr Khamhom said.
Viengxay district is home to 5,700 families, of which 1,836 currently live in poverty.
The district has received assistance from the government-administered Poverty Reduction Fund to improve local infrastructure.
The fund, which is financed by overseas development partners, first began operating in Viengxay district in 2004 and now offers district-wide assistance. The fund has been used to build roads and some primary and secondary schools.
Before receiving assistance from the fund, local families were mostly living below the poverty line, but now the situation has significantly improved. Many villages now have access roads, meaning locals can transport their crops to sell at nearby markets while traders can visit them to buy their produce directly.
The Poverty Reduction Fund was established in 2002 by a Prime Minister’s decree. Its aim is to support the goals of the national socio-economic development plan and the government’s policy to eradicate poverty.
Assistance from the government and international organisations is essential to improve the living conditions of all villagers and help communities rise out of poverty.
Average annual per capita income in the district is now more than 2.8 million kip and could exceed 3.5 million kip by 2015.
Huaphan provincial offi-cials are continuing to work to improve the living standards of families classified as poor by encouraging them to develop agricultural skills and learn about animal husbandry.
Infrastructure development is a priority for the province, especially road construction to link all the districts together to facilitate the mobility of local people, improving access to markets, employment and education.
Huaphan province is home to 45,573 families in total. At present 22,757 of those families are living 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.