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Lao People's Democratic Republic
Economy, agriculture and food security
In 2009, the gross domestic product (GDP) was about US$5 939 million, with a value added in agriculture in 2008 accounting for 35 percent of the GDP. In 2009, the total economically active population was almost 3.1 million, of which 50 percent were women. The population economically active in agriculture was around 2.3 million inhabitants, approximately 75 percent of the economically active population. Of the population economically active in agriculture, 52 percent are women.
Women are major contributors to agricultural production. They do most of the farm work (planting, weeding and harvesting crops), tend livestock, and spend long hours performing off-farm and household chores such as collecting firewood, preparing meals and caring for children. Traditionally, men plough, make bunds and prepare seedbeds. In some areas the traditional task division is changing because of the lack of male labour.
Women are often unpaid, but their contributions are crucial for household food security and the rural economy. Nevertheless, their activities are often excluded from economic accounts and their contributions remain invisible and therefore greatly undervalued as a result of lack of sex-disaggregated data. The Government has enacted conducive policies to promote gender equality. In the agricultural sector, gender concerns are being integrated into specific programmes and projects through a number of measures (FAO, 2010).
Food security still is and will be the highest priority strategy to stabilise economic development and sociopolitical security. As rice is the staple for the population, its production must be stabilised at a high level. Increased paddy production is to be achieved through intensified production in the six major plains and expansion of cultivated areas for paddy in mountain valleys with adequate water. Rice production reached 2.2 million tonnes in 2000 compared to 1.4 million tonnes in 1995. This remarkable increase was mainly the result of the rapid development of irrigation systems for dry season rice production since 1997.
Average production of rice per capita has increased from 310 kg in 1995 to 430 kg in 2000. During these five years the annual growth of rice production was 9.2 percent and other foodstuffs such as maize, roots and tuber crop, soybean, vegetables, eggs, poultry and meat products also increased. These annual growth rates exceeded the annual population growth rate of about 2.5 percent. However, production of food and foodstuffs is still insufficient and unevenly distributed. Foodstuff production is not very stable because of frequent natural events, such as calamitous floods and drought, and limited agricultural infrastructure. There is also a wide variation in food production between provinces. The main food producing areas are concentrated in the main plains along the Mekong river and account for 60-70 percent of food output. In the mountains, where over half the population lives, food output in 2002 was only 30-40 percent of total output (FAO, 2002).