FAO in Laos

New approches to improving Rice Production

12/01/2016

Vientiane.-New approaches to intensifying rice production in Lao PDR were discussed today at a review workshop held in Vientiane today.  The Ministry of Agriculture has been collaborating with FAO under its Regional Rice Initiative to look at rice production in a fresh way, with more of an ecological approach. This new approach brings together improvements in rice varieties and agronomy while enhancing nature's contributions to crop growth through soil fertility, efficient use of water, and use of natural biodiversity in and around rice fields to achieve higher productivity, profitability and use of resources. Apart from promoting techniques for sustainable intensification of rice production, specific attention has been paid to defining the role of fish and other water life as well as trees in rice landscapes for increasing production and income for farmers.  As an example, Government teams have worked with villagers to show that the economic value of water-based animals collected from paddies and consumed as food by each person is greater than the value of the rice they consume. Stephen Rudgard, the FAO Representative in Lao PDR noted that the drive for increased production needs to safeguard the environment in which rice grows, or the increases in production  will not be sustainable. FAO has called this approach "Save and Grow" and applied it to benefit rice production systems while protecting the environment and rural landscapes.  The Regional Rice Initiative (RRI) started in 2013 in Indonesia, Lao PDR and the Philippines.  The ultimate aim is to assist rice farmers to produce rice of higher quality with less input and with greater resilience to climate change, while also enhancing food security. Ministry and Provincial staff have set up integrated Farmer Field Schools to test out the new approaches, which has fostered high levels of participation and been greatly appreciated by the villagers. The Vice Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, H.E. Dr Phouang Parisak Pravongviengkham noted that the knowledge gained from the Regional Rice Initiative would help the Government of Lao PDR to address gaps in knowledge related to achieving the national Rice Strategic Action Plan. The meeting concluded by identifying the priorities and plans for the next two years that will address the ways in which these fresh approaches can be taken and used in practical ways by farmers.