Luang Namtha steps away from poverty

By Meuangkham Noradeth
August 6, 2012

Weaving traditional clothing for sale is a way for villagers in remote areas to earn money.

Attaining a sustainable source of income and achieving basic poverty alleviation is the goal of authorities in all rural communities nationwide, and after working hard for many years, Luang Namtha district has now reached that goal.

Deputy Governor of Luang Namtha district Ms Viengphone Heuangphaengon spoke with Vientiane Times this week, emphasising the joint contribution that local people, district officials and all concerned sectors have made to help lift the community out of poverty.

Their combined efforts have helped solve many obstacles which were preventing the district from reaching basic poverty alleviation targets previously, she said. Ms Viengphone explained that the district has 78 villages, with a population of around 57,500 people, and almost 90 percent of families have now escaped the poverty line.

Villagers in the community now grow a wide variety of crops for sale and consumption, including rice, rubber, beans and a variety of vegetables, she added.

The income they receive for their handicrafts helps meet their daily living costs as well as allow them to save for future medical expenses and other unforeseen events.

Infrastructure development and boosting agricultural productivity has proved critical to improving villagers’ living conditions and helping Luang Namtha district reach its poverty alleviation aims.

District officials have encouraged villagers to work in a variety of fields, such as agricultural production and weaving, to boost income levels and improve living standards so that the district can achieve its basic poverty alleviation targets, Ms Viengphone said.

Not all people in Luang Namtha are farmers though, and many people work in other professions such as trading and selling, while others are government workers, soldiers and policemen.

She explained that 73 villages in the community have year-round road access and are connected to mains electricity, representing around 78 percent of the total villages in the district.

The average annual income in the district is now more than 7.4 million kip per capita and this is expected to rise to more than 15 million kip in future years. Ms Viengphone said that all villages in the community are developing year-by-year; now seven villages have been declared as development villages.

Phianggam village is an example of a model development village in Luang Namtha district, where like other villages there, the women weave Lao skirts, sashes, bags and waist cloths for sale in local markets.

A development village must follow certain criteria. Some 85 percent of households must have been declared so-called development families, villagers must display solidarity and help one another, and the village must be a model of national protection.

It must be crime and drug free, have year-round road access, have electricity installed, be a model of health and culture, and practise gender equality.

While they are not yet all model development villages, a total of 19 villages have now been named as model cultural villages, 26 as drug-free villages and 15 as crime-free villages.

Luang Namtha province has a total five districts but only Luang Namtha and Sing have achieved basic poverty alleviation so far.

The remaining three districts are now the focus of provincial officials, who will work towards reaching basic poverty alleviation in the targeted areas by 2015.

Luang Namtha province is home to almost 29,000 families in total, of which more than 9,000 remain in poverty, according to a survey conducted last year by the National 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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