Farming sets poor families on path to prosperity

By Phon Thikeo
December 8, 2012

Mr Khamta shows the crops he grows on his smallholding.

Working hard and making money are always uppermost in the mind of Mr Khamta of Pakngum district, Vientiane. Over time his principles have paid off and the authorities recently presented him with a model family certificate to attest to his success.

Mr Khamta Phoulamchit’s fam ily is one of several exemplary households in Nonxai village. In 2011 his family was chosen from among more than 180 to be named a model household after they improved their lot by growing crops for sale at Vientiane markets.

Nonxai is a small village of just 185 families. Most of them are farmers who grow crops on a commercial basis, especially rice and sweetcorn. Back in the 1990s, Mr Khamta’s family was one of several low income families in the village. They grew only rice and enough vegetables to feed themselves, while he worked for a local company.

“I was employed at a company and grew crops in my spare time to feed my family. My life was really difficult in the 1990s,” he recalled.

In 1991 he stopped working with the company and began to grow various crops, which he sold at Vientiane markets. He gave up growing rice and started cultivating seasonal crops on half a hectare of land. “I stopped growing rice permanently in 1991 and used the land to grow seasonal crops instead. I grew what the traders wanted to order,” Mr Khamta said.

It didn’t cost much to get started on his new venture. He bought vegetable seeds, used compost as fertiliser and bought the tools he needed. He didn’t hire any outside labour as his family helped out.

In the first year he saved a small amount after selling his crops. He bought some essentials for his family and paid for his children to go to school. He also had to buy rice now that he was no longer growing his own.

“In 1991 I earned less than a million kip a month from selling the crops I grew. I didn’t sell vegetables at the markets myself. Traders came from Vientiane to buy produce directly from my smallholding. I grew what they wanted at various times of the year, depending on market demand,” he said.

Year by year his savings grew and he used the money to buy a plot of land from a local villager. Now he owns more than two hectares of land on which he grows sweetcorn, yam beans, papayas, chillies, salad vegetables and eggplant.

“My income rose from just 10 million kip in 1991 to 60 million kip today. Of course, the money I make depends on the demand for what I grow,” he said.

He continues to work hard in order to improve his standard of living, just as many of his neighbours do.

Nonxai Village Head Mr Xanexay Deurnsaban said there are now no families in the village who live below the poverty line. They have all been able to boost their standard of living by growing crops to sell in Vientiane’s markets. Over the past five years, many of them have been named model families for their success in growing commercial crops and other aspects of life.

Mr Xanexay said Mr Khamta’s family was declared a model family in 2011 after their success with crop growing. The village authorities and local residents voted for them to be named a role model in the community.

“Mr Khamta’s family is very hard-working and they are determined to achieve a decent standard of living. They now earn more than 60 million kip per year. That might not seem much to city dwellers, but it’s big money for vegetable growers,” he commented.

As well as benefiting financially, Mr Khamta has helped other families with similar ventures and dispensed advice to farmers when they have been confronted with problems.

Mr Xanexay said Mr Khamta’s family now lives in a solidly built house and they own a tractor which helps them with their work on the farm.

Mr Khamta said he intends to carry on cultivating crops and plans to buy another plot of land. In recent years he has rented land to other people for crop growing.

“If I have more land on which to grow crops, I believe I’ll be able to earn more than 60 million kip a year,” he said.


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