Farming key to fighting poverty in Saravan

By Meuangkham Noradeth
March 11, 2012

Better roads are vital to improving villagers' living standards in remote areas.

With Laos targeting graduation from its least developed country status by 2020, people nationwide are working hard to improve their living standards.

Mrs Sounthone Na-phonsack’s family in Porkhem village, Lau-ngam district, Saravan province, is a prime example of how individuals and groups of people can rise above poverty.

From 1982-1992, Mrs Sounthone’s eight family members lived a poor life working as labourers on a neighbour’s farm.

Eventually they pooled enough money to buy one hectare of land on which to grow coffee, then they borrowed money from the Agriculture Promotion Bank to ultimately accrue 51 hectares of land.

In 2010, the family decided to borrow more money from the bank to invest in planting coffee and rearing fish, cows, pigs and poultry, earning 1.5 billion kip that year to give each member a shot at a better life.

Mrs Sounthone said assistance from district officials played an important role in helping her family rise above poverty.

The climate in Saravan province is good for growing coffee and a variety of other crops, she said, adding that if people are patient and work hard enough they will be able to improve their livelihoods.

Mrs Sounthone said her family’s living standards have improved to the point where they are no longer in debt, have a well-built house and own vehicles to transport their crops for sale.

She said she even plans to buy more land on which to plant various crops.

Mrs Sounthone’s family now serves as a model for other members of the community, Lau-ngam district Governor Ms Sounthone Keoboualapha said this week.

She explained that the livelihoods of local villagers have been dependent on farming for many centuries, so supporting larger-scale agricultural production is the best way to improve living standards.

“We are trying to introduce new farming techniques to produce coffee and other crops so that villagers can boost their yields both in terms of quality and quantity,” the district Governor explained.

She said villagers in Lau-ngam district have already had success with the commercial cultivation of coffee, beans, bananas, sweetcorn, cucumbers, medicinal plants and a variety of other vegetables.

District officials are also helping villagers to raise cows, goats and pigs for both consumption and sale, but some villages lack road access so find it difficult to transport goods to markets, especially in the rainy season.

The district comprises 103 villages, of which 72 have access roads. “However, we still lack the budget to improve basic infrastructure and improve villagers’ living standards,” Ms Sounthone said.

The number of poor families in the community is still high so district officials are encouraging them to work in farming because many have no other knowledge or skills.

Lau-ngam district is home to 11,000 families. At present 2,553 of those families are living in poverty, but district officials hope that everyone will be able to escape poverty by 2015.

Average annual per capita income in the district is now more than 6.6 million kip and could exceed 10.3 million kip by 2015.

Saravan province is home to 60,281 families in total. At present 14,398 of those families are living in poverty, according to a report from the National Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication.

Provincial officials will have to work harder if they want to alleviate basic poverty by 2015, but they are focussing on animal husbandry and crop cultivation as the means to 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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