By Meuangkham Noradeth
July 8, 2012
The government is moving closer to reaching its Millennium Development Goals on the way to the UN removing Laos from the list of least developed countries by 2020.
Poverty alleviation is the country’s main target and assistance from international organisations and other countries is essential to improve villagers’ living standards.
To help reach the Millennium Development Goals, the government has set a target for all districts in the country to be declared free of basic poverty in the next three years.
A Japanese social development group is helping fund the improvement of living conditions of poor people in Huaphan province.
The project supports villagers in Viengthong district, by funding farming facilities and animal husbandry, and supporting local handicrafts.
The project’s activities are part of the government’s plan to develop all villages nationwide.
In the future, the Japanese social development fund will work to improve the living standards of villagers in Xiengkhor and Samtai districts.
Assistance from the fund is an important contribution to improving villagers’ living standards in Viengthong district, and a step in the right direction toward alleviating basic poverty.
District officials hope they’ll reach the poverty alleviation targets, since they’ve been working hard for community development for many years.
The number of poor households is still so high that officials don’t know when they’ll achieve poverty alleviation, Deputy Governor of Viengthong district, Mr Khamphay Phommysone, said this week.
Viengthong is one of the poorest districts in Huaphan province, so assistance from the government and international organisations is essential to develop the area.
The district has 69 villages, home to about 27,230 people living in 4,254 households, of which 2,282 are below the poverty line.
District officials are focusing on developing infrastructure, helping villagers to grow a larger variety of crops, and increasing livestock farming to rear animals for sale and consumption.
While many villages are accessible by road all year round, 47 are isolated in the wet season. This makes it impossible for villagers to transport their crops for sale, and makes it hard for district officials to reach poor families in these isolated areas.
Land is essential for villagers to plant crops, so district officials have given land to villagers for farming, and arranged loans for growing rice and other crops, and rearing cattle, poultry, pigs and goats.
It’s also important for private companies to invest in the commercial cultivation of crops to boost stable employment for locals and strengthen the economy.
The district has about 1,179 hectares of rice fields, but any expansion is limited because of poor irrigation.
“Villagers in Viengthong district have been farmers for centuries, and we need to build more irrigation systems to they can expand,” said Mr Khamphay.
It’s hoped the annual per capita income in the district will rise from 2.9 million kip to 3.9 million kip over the next three years.
Mr Khamphay said villagers’ living standards continue to improve each year, now that they have vehicles for farming and to transport their crops to markets.
But Huaphan province still faces many challenges to alleviate poverty.
It’s estimated about 22,757 people still live below the poverty line across the province.
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.