FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Research and agricultural innovation in Lao People’s Democratic Republic benefiting smallholders

21/02/2020 Vientiane, Lao PDR

While Lao PDR is a comparatively small country in Asia it has an impressive track record in agricultural research and recent organic innovation.

At the Lao PDR Rice Research Center, just under an hour’s drive from the capital, a team of researchers in white coats and hair nets, inspect samples of many different rice varieties. In fact, the RRC has identified more than 14,000 varieties of rice in Lao PDR – the greatest number of varieties of almost any nation on earth – and second only to India.

The RRC also produces some 250 tonnes of regulated seeds yearly.

Rice farming comes naturally to the people of this country, and so does consumption. Researchers explain that the average household eats rice four times per day.

“Lao PDR might not be Asia’s largest producer of rice, but the yields are impressive,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “The government estimates that up to one-million tonnes of rice are harvested each year. Impressive for a country of some seven million people.”

The country is now self-sufficient in rice production and it does a brisk border trade with the excess.

From rice to green vegetables

Further down the road, some 700 families are working together in an organized way to grow a wide variety of produce, from broccoli and lettuce to mint and many other varieties. More than 60 percent of the farmers at Thong Mang Organic Vegetable Farm are women.

“I am very impressed to see this organic farm in action and to meet the families working on it,” said QU Dongyu as he walked between rows of plants.  And, the venture has proved profitable too. In less than five years, the farmers’ incomes have grown ten-fold since the farm’s inception.

In summary, despite being a landlocked nation and listed as a Least Developed Country (LDC), agricultural innovation has not been suppressed.

“I am impressed with what I have seen here in Lao PDR to transform and speed up the process of moving from LDC to a more prosperous nation,” said QU Dongyu. FAO stands ready to help make that happen with its Hand in Hand initiative.

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