FAO in Laos

Experts mull human resource development for agriculture


Vientiane.- Lao and international experts have mulled human resource development for agriculture as a measure to attract investors to the sector.

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry plus the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) convened yesterday in Vientiane to discuss the direction and progress of the sector with a focus on the development of researchers to promote agriculture production and forest protection.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Phet Phomphiphack said the government had developed and promoted agriculture production in recent years.

“From 1999 to 2014 we created Lao agricultural researcher positions according to the government's plan. Now we have over 500 agricultural researchers,” he said.

“Although officials specialising in agriculture will increase each year, we still lack agricultural researchers because the increased numbers cannot meet the needs of the sector. So this conference is important to the plan for creating more Lao agricultural researchers in cooperation with the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) and National University of Laos (NUOL).”

Dr Phet also explained that human resource development for agriculture and forestry was interpreted to mean developing the capacity of the Lao workforce in meeting the government's and domestic and foreign investors' demand for qualified staff.

In the past five years, the demand for professional agriculturists and foresters has increased along with increasing land investments, concessions and leases. Two years ago, 720 land transactions in agriculture and forestry, inclusive of corporate farms and plantations, had been recorded comprising more than half of the total area of land under investment.

The majority of these are foreign direct investments. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has expanded and intensified its programmes aiming for higher productivity and increasing forest cover. These agricultural programmes on corporate farms and plantations needed to be manned by professionals.

FAO representative, Mr Stephen Rudgard said the organisation was happy to support the government to develop the framework of a specialised post-graduate programme for the agriculture and forestry sectors that was built on the partnership between the ministry and the NUOL.

By the end of 2015, Laos would integrate into the Asean Economic Community. Economic factors such as capital, resources and manpower would no longer be constrained within national boundaries so Laos' manpower needed to professionalise and be on par with other players, he added.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has long intended to professionalise its agriculture and forestry research and extension staff, not only at the national level but at the decentralised provincial and district levels as well. Researchers and agricultural extension workers in 18 provinces and 142 districts would number thousands.

NAFRI is eager to assume the task of building the capacity of the agricultural sector by sharing its technologies, systems and development protocols with the rest of the sector through a development programme that will professionalise research and extension staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as well as meeting the demands of increasing numbers of domestic and foreign investors in the sector.

However, NAFRI can only assume this responsibility with support from its partner institutions: FAO, the Swiss Development Corporation, AusAID, SEAMEO SEARCA and the NUOL among others.

Source: Vientiane Times