Planting the seeds of sustainability in Khammoune

Vientiane 18 March 2019 - The floods that devastated much of Lao PDR in 2018 affected countless farmers in Xebangfai District of Khammoune Province. Whole harvests of crops were wiped away and many communities saw their property endure unprecedented damage. One of the victims of the floods was Mr. Bounbeng, a farmer from Dangtha village, who was left on his own to face the effects of the disaster. “After the flood we were discouraged and had no idea where to find rice seeds to grow our crops,” he recalls.

To bring some much needed relief to farmers like Mr. Bounbeng, FAO’s Agriculture Input and Technical Support program set out to distribute rice seeds and fertilizers to vulnerable people across the district. The intervention was funded by a United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) grant Lao PDR received in 2018 to assist flood victims in Khammouane Province.

The seeds distributed were of a special TDK 8 variety, which germinate better compared to the seeds available in the local market. As growing vegetables in the upper parts of paddy fields is also crucial to ensure that villagers do not go hungry, some vegetable seeds such as sweet corn were also given to farmers.

The seeds and fertilizers were distributed in November just in time for the growing season. As a result, almost all farmers are back to cultivating rice. ‘’The villagers are happy and want to continue using the new rice variety we received in the coming wet seasons as well,’’ exclaims Mr. Bounbeng.

Another farmer from Naphorktha village, Mrs. Douangchanh, states that crop production has increased significantly after the seeds and fertilizers were distributed. She received 30 kilos of seeds and plans to plant half a hectare of land with it. With the new seeds, there is a reason for her to also hope for increased income this season. Using an image of traditional belief in Naga, the god of the waters, she says: “We pray that the Naga god does not come to play in our paddy fields again.’’

In addition to providing farmers with better quality seeds, the program trained them how to use new technologies for rice cultivation and post-harvest activities, produce bio extracts for improved soil fertility, apply fertilizers and keep pesticide populations at a level that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks. The trainings were crucial for improving productivity, as well as securing the investments farmers had made themselves.

Mr. Khan from Nakheu village of Hinboun District is relieved ever since he had the opportunity to participate in these trainings. “We had no idea how to apply chemical fertilizers, or what fertilizer formula should be used before and after transplanting. Now we have learned all that and know how to grow rice more productively.”

Results of the program show that farmers are now using irrigated areas more efficiently by using water pumped from the nearby rivers for vegetable and cash crop growth. This has made rural communities in Khammoune more resilient and ready to cope with natural disasters, which is crucial to ensuring that rural families are able to live stable lives without fear of going hungry or suddenly losing their incomes.

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