FAO Representation in Lao Peoples Democratic RepublicMarch 2011
Lao PDR and FAOAchievements and success stories
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The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos) has reduced poverty levels substantially over the past15 years. However, the mountainous land-locked country remains one of the poorest and least developed countriesin Southeast Asia, with more than three-quarters of the Lao people living on less than US$2 per day.
FAO collaborated with the Lao government since the establishment of the Lao PDR on 2 December 1975. A PermanentFAO Representative Office was established in Vientiane in 1980.
Since then, the countrys population has more than doubled, from about 3.2 million to 6.6 million.
Agriculture is the countrys most important economic sector, providing the main source of income for some 80 percentof the labour force and contributing more than 50 percent to GDP.
FAO provides support to the Lao government with policy formulation delivered by technical experts, social scientists,economists and statisticians. It provides agriculture, fisheries and forestry support through the expertise of agronomists,foresters, fishery nutritionists, livestock specialists and other professionals, who collect, analyze and disseminate dataand information that assist the development process.
Guided by the National Medium-Term Priority Framework (NMTPF) 2006-2010, projects cover such issues as long-termfood security and nutrition in rural households, sustainable natural resource management, transformation fromsubsistence to market-oriented agriculture, economic integration and institution and capacity building.
In financial terms, total assistance provided by FAO over the last three decades amounts to US$68 million for nationalprojects, of which the largest single donor was UNDP (some UD$37 million), followed by FAOs regular programmeresources (US$14.7 million) and various multi-bilateral donors (US$16 million). In addition, Lao PDR has participated inFAO assisted multi-country projects, the value of which is not quantified.
1. Analytical summary
1.1 Building food and nutrition security
Food insecurity in the Lao PDR affects more than10 percent of Lao households with an additional50 percent being at risk of food insecurity should late orerratic rainfalls, floods or agricultural pests affect them.Undernutrition levels are the most severe in SoutheastAsia in rural areas 31 percent of children below the ageof five are underweight.
Because of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition arelinked to many factors, a series of complementary multi-sector programmes have been implemented during thelast 15 years aimed at reaching the poorest and hungriestpeople in Lao PDR.
The government, with support of FAO has madeagriculture, food and nutrition security centralcomponents of the Lao Governments National Socio-Economic Development Plans (NSEDP).
Techniques have been introduced to help householdsdiversify their food production and income sources, aswell as to improve processing, preservation and storageof food.
Until the early 2000s, agricultural production wasinsufficient to meet the requirements of the populationand provide sufficient surplus for export. In the last tenyears, there has been a notable improvement in riceyields and output. Official estimates now indicate that thearea under dry-season rice cultivation has increasedalmost five fold from 1996 to 2000 thanks to theincreased adoption of high-yield rice varieties and greateruse of irrigated dry-season farming.
1.2 Supporting government policy bybuilding capacity in statistics and scientificareas
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the LaoPDR is only possible when there are adequateinstitutional and human resources to enable the designand effective implementation of policies andprogrammes that can develop rural communities and thecountrys agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.
FAO has taken a lead role in providing policy support tothe Government of Lao PDR to develop a statistics-basedstrategy to strengthen its policy, planning and decisionmaking processes, particularly in addressing the impactsof external shocks and other events affecting agriculture.
FAOs work on developing an Assessment of the Situationand Outlook of Rice, Crop and Food Security Assessment,the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study II and anAgricultural Census, among other initiative, responds togovernments desire to attain sustainable economicgrowth. FAO initiatives help the country meet its foodneeds and increase its agricultural exports. Developingagribusiness is another area where FAO projects assist thecountrys development goals.
1.3 Edible insect supplement rice to improvefood security
Rice is the major staple food for Lao people, but theirdiets are often supplemented by protein from wildinsects for good nutrition. There is an acute need toimprove Lao diets with regard to protein, energy andother nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, iodine andvitamin B1.
More than 95 percent of Lao people eat insects. Thereare about 1 700 edible insect species worldwide, but theirnutritional benefits are a relatively recent discovery. FAOis encouraging insect breeding and marketing in Lao PDRthrough a programme that focuses on the whole insectchain from bug breeding to commercialization andconsumption.
Investing in sustainable insect farming and promoting thebenefits of insect consumption could be part of theanswer to chronic malnutrition in Lao PDR.
Traditionally, insects have played an important role in theSoutheast Asian diet with beetles, termites, cicadas,dragonflies, crickets and locusts being commonlyconsumed.
Insects are a good source of nutrients with high proteincontent, as well as many vital vitamins and minerals andare comparable to more conventional animal sources. Forexample, when compared to conventional livestock, thefood conversion efficiency an animals efficiency in
converting feed mass into increased body mass is muchhigher in insects, making them a more environmentallyfriendly meat. Currently in Lao PDR, the only species thatis farmed is the cricket, and only in limited areas.
1.4 Fisheries and aquaculture
Through a partnership between FAO, World Wildlife FundLao, the Mekong River Commission and the Departmentof Livestock and Fisheries, a national Fisheries andAquaculture Bill has been drafted.
appeared in Asia in 2003, the virus continues to be foundin poultry in some parts of the country, but now peopleknow how to respond to the problem because of ongoing behaviour change communication effortspromoted by the government. People have learned howto prevent transmission and what to do in the event ofan outbreak.
FAO has a lead role in the fight against avian influenza inLao PDR, providing financial and technical support foractive surveillance, procuring equipment, strengtheningdiagnostic laboratory network coordination, capacitybuilding, human resource development, and in donorcoordination support for the animal health sector. Severalprojects have been implemented since 2004, includingstrategy development for the AI Pandemic PreparednessPlan with the government, and active participation in theUN Cross-Sectoral Influenza Working Group.
Though progress has been made, as long as the virus ispresent in poultry there is still the threat of humaninfection at any time. Avian influenza remains a seriousthreat and FAO continues its field support to a widerange of stakeholders, particularly small backyard poultryfarmers.
1.6 Helping the forests sustain lives andlivelihoods
FAO is assisting Lao PDR in the field of forestry byassisting natural regeneration of forest ecosystem servicesthrough simple and cost-efficient methods that involvethe participation of local communities in effective firemanagement, restricted grazing, managing invasive grassspecies. Natural regeneration restores a diverse mix ofspecies that enhance watershed functions such aserosion resistance and maintenance of water quality.
2. Selected successful FAO programmes
W ith funding provided by Japan, during the 2000sthe Special programme for food security (SPFS) andSouth-South Cooperation was implemented in Lao PDRwith a total budget of US$2 900 279.
The SPFS project GCPS/LAO/011/JPN, operational from2001 to 2008, aimed at empowering groups of small
The Bill reflects international fishery instruments andinternational commitments, with particular reference tothe Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Thiscomprehensive legal framework went before the NationalAssembly in June 2009 for ratification.
The legislation will be used to mainstream co-management interventions and to better ensure theintegration of fisheries considerations into agriculturepolicy planning and development by ensuringappropriate management and use of fisheries resourcesand rational development of aquaculture. This will formthe basis of other development interventions, whichtarget natural resource management in the fishery sectorin Lao PDR.
1.5 Responding to bird flu and otheremergencies (Typhoon Ketsana)
The Lao government has made serious progress incontaining avian influenza (AI), despite the fact that newoutbreaks continue to emerge. Since H5N1 HPAI first
farmers and poor urban families to meet their food needs,to diagnose the constraints and opportunities which theyface and to identify, test and take up viable, locallyadapted and sustainable options for addressing them.The focus is on low-cost innovations and creation of localinstitutional capacities to continue the process, lookingat food security from the perspective of the communityas a whole, including vulnerable groups.
2.1 Nutrition and food security
One of the core priorities of the Lao government is theeradication of poverty, and to decrease high levels ofmalnutrition by creating an enabling environment forgrowth and development. An assessment in 2007showed that, despite ten years of robust economicgrowth, undernutrition rates of Lao children under theage of five are among the highest in Southeast Asia.Chronic undernourishment affects not only a childsphysical development, but also their cognitive capacity.
In the wake of this alarming assessment, renewedattention was given to the situation and the Laogovernment demonstrated its commitment to tackle theproblem by requesting assistance from FAO and otherdevelopment partners. FAO has played a key role in theparticipatory drafting of a National Nutrition Policy in2008, a National Nutrition Strategy and a National Planof Action for Nutrition in 2009 that together providea framework for how the nutritional situation in the LaoPDR can be turned around.
The National Nutrition Policy, the Strategy and the Planof Action make nutrition a cornerstone for developmentand emphasize the importance of nutrition for the wellbeing of families. The Decree on the National NutritionPolicy is legally binding. FAO also continues to supportthe Lao government with several activities identified andagreed upon in the guiding documents. FAO trains stafffrom government to the village level to improvehousehold nutrition. FAO also promotes indigenous foodand solutions that are accessible to all Lao people.
Capacity building for food security and better nutrition, GCP/LAO/016/ITA, 2009-2011, US$1 336 928 funded by Italy
EC/FAO Food security programme phase II (Year 2 and 3) Account 1 GCP/GLO/162/EC, Facility for Global DonorPlatform Rural Development, (US$1 372 823) funded bythe European Union
EC/FAO Food security programme phase II (Year 2 and 3) Account 2 GCP/GLO/162/EC, Facility for ConsultancyService, US$1 514 875 funded by the European Union
EC/FAO Food security programme phase II (Year 2 and 3) Account 3 GCP/GLO/162/EC, main programme,US$9 809 298 funded by the European Union
Improved food safety and food quality at the national level,FNOP/INT/103/NOR, US$976 808 funded by Norway
Integration of food security and nutrition into the 7 th NSEDPand improved food security and nutrition coordinationamong government ministries, FMPP/GLO/001/MUL,US$200 000 funded by an FAO multi-donor partnershipprogramme
Finalization of national nutrition policy and support for thegovernment of the Lao PDR, TCP/LAO/3201, US$136 312
Development of a national nutrition strategy, nationalPlan of Action on Nutrition, TCP/LAO/3203, 2009-2011,US$370 000
Regional support to alleviate the impact of soaring foodprices on the most affected vulnerable farming populationsof Asia, TCP/RAS/3204, US$448 000
Development of vulnerability information base, mappingand dissemination system for Asia in support of the FoodInsecurity and Vulnerability Information and MappingSystem (FIVIMS), GCP/RAS/170/JPN, Phase II, US$3 664 562,funded by Japan
Improving food safety and its management in Cambodia,Lao PDR and Viet Nam, GCP/RAS/207/NZE, US$ 1 149 520,funded by New Zealand
Enhancing food safety by strengthening food inspectionsystems in ASEAN countries, GCP/RAS/222/JPN, US$1 270 073,funded by Japan
Support to the FAO programme on capacity building in foodsafety in selected ASEAN countries, GCP/RAS/223/JPN,US$849 843, funded by Japan
Support to the EC programme on linking informationand decision-making to improve food security for selectedgreater Mekong subregional countries, GCP/RAS/247/EC,US$2 557 545, funded by the European Union
2.2 Policy support and building up muchneeded technical capacity
Lao PDR is impeded from achieving the MillenniumDevelopment Goals because of difficulties inimplementing policies and programmes that could helprural development.
FAO has taken a lead role in assisting the Lao governmentto use statistics-based strategies to strengthen its policy,planning and decision making processes, particularly inaddress...