FAO in Lao People's Democratic Republic

Agricultural officials and FAO discuss rice intensification


Vientiane. - Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, United Nations Forestry and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) met in Thalad, Vientiane province last week to discuss the implementation of a System of Rice Intensification (SRI) project in Laos.

Jointly organized by the Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperatives and the FAO, the workshop centered on the theme ‘Sustaining and Enhancing the Momentum for Innovation and Learning around the System of Rice Intensification in the Lower Mekong Basin.'

The participants discussed the implementation of SRI projects in Vientiane, Khammuan and Savannakhet provinces. SRI is an emerging technology that provides an alternative to conventional rice cultivation techniques. It instills a social dimension in farming, whilst at the same time producing healthy and profitable crops.

The regional project became operational in February 2014. Similar projects are underway in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, all as part of the five-year regional project funded through a 3.4 million euro grant from the European Union being implemented by the Asian Institute of Technology.

Through the skilful management of plants and soils, water and nutrients farmers can grow rice using less water and less seed, said project team leader Dr. Abha Mishra, of the Asian Institute of Technology.

The project will develop farmer field schools and will stimulate participatory action research by farmers themselves. Documenting the results of the project and sharing those results with the community at large is central to the project, which will also provide the Lao government with the feedback it receives from a participatory consultation process with all relevant stakeholders.

As part of the initiative, field work will be undertaken in Kasi, Vangvieng and Meuangfeuang districts of Vientiane province, Nakai, Mahaxay and Nhommalath districts of Khammuan and Champhone, Songkhone and Xaybouly districts of Savannakhet.

Smallholder farmers can expect to benefit from increased crop yields, higher productivity and better profitability whilst ensuring their farming methods are sustainable in the longer term.

The project will target smallholders' fields in rain-fed areas aiming to develop science-based pro-poor profitable crop management practices.

The national inception workshop was co-chaired by Deputy Director General of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperatives Dr. Somnuck Thirasack and Chief Technical Advisor of the FAO Regional Programme for Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Risk Reduction Mr. Jan Willem Ketelaar.