Supporting Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI)

FAO and the Government of Lao PDR working together to enhance responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in the country


FAO and the Government of Lao PDR are working together to enhance responsible investment in agriculture and food systems (RAI), a critical step to make investment in the agri-food sector contribute to inclusive and sustainable national development. 

This joint work started in October 2020, when representatives from relevant ministries and institutions related to agricultural investment, as well as development partners participated in the workshop to launch the project “Enhancing the Enabling Environment for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany. 

In January 2021, around 40 participants from key ministerial departments and civil society organizations in Lao PDR participated in an assessment of capacity needs to enhance responsible investment in agriculture in the country. The 3-day workshop took place in Vang Vieng and was organized by FAO, the Department of Planning and Finance under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR, and the Swiss Non-Governmental Organization Helvetas, which has been working in the country since 2001.

Identifying needs and priorities

The workshop aimed at understanding to what extent national policies, laws, plans and strategies that could foster an enabling environment for responsible investment are being implemented, at what stages of the investment process there could be improvements, and what are the main needs in terms of learning for government entities.

In addition, two companies that are carrying out agricultural investments in the country participated in the workshop to share their experience and invited all participants to a field visit, during which they could see how responsible investment is done in practice and reflect on the main challenges. 

The results of the workshop highlighted the need to address the issue of community engagement in the investment process, especially through the adequate enforcement of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Capacity development in the country should target local level government agencies with priority, as they are the most directly responsible for actions that promote RAI but are often not adequately informed or trained. Finally, RAI should be presented as an integral part of the Lao legal framework, to be mainstreamed in the day-to-day tasks of government personnel.

Learning Programme for local government officials and other upcoming activities

Based on the priorities identified, a Learning Programme on “Involving local communities in Agricultural Investment” targeting representatives of District-level Departments (Planning, Agriculture and Forestry, Industry and Commerce, Natural Resource and Environment, Justice) is currently being designed and will be implemented with the support of provincial officials of the same departments.

The project will also include a learning workshop for the civil society, and a multi-stakeholder policy dialogue that will involve all the main actors working on the enhancement of RAI in Lao PDR.

The need for more and better investment in agriculture

Agriculture could be a major driver for sustainable development, food security and poverty reduction in Lao PDR. However, not all kinds of investments in agriculture are equally beneficial, with some carrying substantial risks. To guarantee that investment in agriculture addresses rural poverty and creates decent jobs for all, including women and youth, it is fundamental that it is “responsible”, following the guidance of the CFS Principles for Responsible investment in agriculture and food systems (CFS-RAI Principles) and the ASEAN Guidelines on Promoting Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry (ASEAN RAI), based on the CFS-RAI Principles.

The ASEAN RAI were adopted by the Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2018. Their main objective is to ensure that agribusiness investments are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable and inclusive. They provide partners of such investments - from the public, private and civil society sectors - a roadmap of the important ingredients to keep in mind.

The current Work Programme of the ASEAN-FAO Cooperation on Food, Agriculture and Forestry (2019-2024) includes the promotion of RAI among its 6 objectives. 

More information:

The ASEAN Guidelines website:

The FAO website Supporting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems: