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Skills for tourism, agriculture and forestry (STAF)


LuxDev's Regional office
Asia Office

Education, vocationnal training and employment
2023 - 2027

Implementation period
January 2023 - December 2027
Total duration
60 months

Total budget
25,180,000 EUR
Contribution breakdown
  • Luxembourg Government
    10,000,000 EUR
  • SDC
    8,180,000 EUR
  • UE
    7,000,000 EUR

Project sheets

With continued low school enrolment and completion rates, and even lower uptake of post-school vocational education, education and skill levels in Laos continue to lag behind its regional neighbours, reducing the country’s economic competitiveness and growth prospects.

The five-year Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry programme (STAF) 2023-2027 will focus on two key areas of future economic growth in Lao PDR:

  • tourism and hospitality sector (addressed by Luxembourg Aid & Development and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation during multiple previous years);
  • agriculture and forestry sector.

Both these key sectors are directly relevant and important to large numbers of some of the poorest, most disadvantaged and vulnerable workers and entrepreneurs. These sectors also offer significant potential for both green and digital growth and innovation.

The tourism industry has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a significant contraction in employment. However, as the industry recovers over the next five years, a quality supply of graduates will ensure a continued increase in the skills profile of the sector, strengthening the regional and international competitiveness of Lao PDR as a tourism destination.

The agriculture, agroindustry and processing, and forestry sectors remain major economic drivers in the four target provinces. These sectors not only employ large numbers of women, men and youth but also support large numbers of micro- and small enterprises, providing upstream and downstream services in the respective value chains. With trade and movement controls now lifted, buoyed by the investments in key road and rail transport links with China, Thailand and Vietnam, these sectors are widely expected to enjoy significant, export-driven growth in the coming years.

The programme is, therefore, ideally positioned to ensure that disadvantaged individuals and communities in rural Lao PDR have the necessary skills and capacities to take advantage of this growth and ensuring rural economic development is both inclusive and equitable.

The geographical focus will be on the four priority provinces of Bolikhamxay, Bokeo, Khammouane and Vientiane. Support to tourism and hospitality Vocational Skills Development (VSD) strengthening will extend beyond these provinces to all those where tourism is a key economic driver. Support activities in agriculture and forestry will similarly extend to Luang Prabang province where significant growth is observable in these sectors.

Interventions will necessarily target support and capacity development of a broad array of VSD stakeholders including both public and private VSD providers, key employers and value chain actors in key sectors, and both national and provincial Government agencies with VSD-related mandates. In addition, relevant line ministry and mass organisation partners will be mobilised to support and strengthen the relevance of services.

The final beneficiaries are the thousands of young women and men receiving VSD services in addition to unemployed job seekers undergoing VSD training and coaching towards self-employment and increased employability. Particular priority will be given to strengthening access to VSD for women and girls, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

The STAF programme will focus on five key intermediate changes in pursuit of an enhanced and more industry facing VSD system:

  • VSD services and their delivery are relevant and of good quality;
  • the demand for quality VSD services is increased amongst employers, job seekers and entrepreneurs;
  • investment in VSD services, including disadvantaged communities are more cost-effective;
  • Lao people, including disadvantaged communities, have access to VSD services;
  • Lao people are aware of opportunities for secure and decent wage employment.

This approach is further complemented by the collaborative investment of multiple development partners including Luxembourg Aid and Development, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the European Union.

Latest news

  • LAOS - Cross-border collaboration to strengthen non-formal vocational skills development

    Published on 20 May 2024    By Anais LOGIER   EN

    The Department of Non-Formal Education (DNFE) under the Ministry of Education and Sports in Lao PDR recognises the crucial role of non-formal vocational skills development in empowering rural communities, especially in the agriculture and forestry sectors. To learn from best practices and inform its own strategies, the DNFE, with support from the Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme, organised a study tour to neighbouring Vietnam, a country with significant experience in this area.

    The trip - which took place in April 2024 - focused on the northern part of Vietnam, specifically Hanoi City, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Thanh Hoa Provinces. The objectives were threefold:

    • to better understand the Vietnamese non-formal vocational skills development strategy;
    • to explore the technical resources required for non-formal vocational skills development in agriculture and forestry, the curriculum development process, the effective delivery models and teacher training;
    • and to forge partnerships with technical stakeholders in Vietnam in non-formal vocational skills development.

    The Lao delegation was headed by Mr Sengaloun Boutsady, Deputy Director General, DNFE. The 17 participants (including six women) included DNFE technical staff, a representative from the Department of Bilateral Cooperation under Ministry of Education and Sports, managers and technical staff from non-formal education centres in five provinces and Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme technical advisers.

    On the first day, the participants met the Department of Continuing Education under the Ministry of Education and Training and the Department of Basic Vocational Training under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to learn about Vietnam’s strategies and good practices in promoting non-formal vocational skills development to support socio-economic development.

    In the following days, the participants visited two non-formal education centres and observed different training models in Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Thanh Hoa Provinces to learn how the strategies are applied at local level, including a community-based weaving and embroidery training model using local artisans as certified trainers, a fish raising training and coaching model in cooperation with the District Agriculture Extension Centre, a mulberry cultivation and silkworm raising model using both model farmers and agriculture extension staff, and a bamboo weaving training and production model by a private company.

    On the final day of the study tour, the participants held a debriefing session, during which they reported insights learnt and identified areas with potential for replication in Lao PDR. Several key takeaways emerged from this session. Action points were established to address these findings, offering valuable insights into enhancing non-formal vocational skills development services in Lao PDR.

    Among these insights was the importance of collaborative resource utilisation, specifically regarding teachers. In Vietnam, non-formal education centres leverage partnerships with teachers from general education institutions for literacy training programmes, with technical and vocational education and training institutions, agriculture departments and the private sector to provide vocational training in the agriculture and forestry sectors. This collaborative approach not only optimises resource and teacher allocation but also enriches the quality of non-formal vocational skills development programmes.

    Another commendable practice observed was the establishment of a system that certifies model farmers and local artisans to become trainers for basic vocational training courses, an excellent initiative that expands the pool of potential trainers. Such an approach becomes particularly crucial in the context of increasingly specialised agriculture and forestry production, where distinct stages of the production process are handled by separate entities or firms (vertical specialisation). Consequently, training institutions must adapt to meet these specialised training needs effectively.

    Moreover, the dual learning model observed in Vietnam for non-formal education — a framework wherein students participate in both general education (in the morning) and vocational training (in the afternoon) — presented a compelling strategy for maximising skill acquisition.

    Another discussion point was the student recruitment strategy. In Vietnam, recruitment of learners for basic vocational training is based on learners’ resources and potential outcomes, rather than simply on students’ needs and wishes. By focusing on these resources and outcomes, notably job prospects and income potential, non-formal vocational skills development initiatives can be tailored to meet the evolving needs of communities.

    Finally, incentivising excellence through competitions among non-formal education centres can elevate the overall quality of vocational training programmes, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

    The study tour exemplifies the importance of cross-border cooperation, serving as a catalyst for knowledge exchange and mutual learning, essential for advancing development initiatives. By learning from Vietnam's experience, Lao PDR’s DNFE is now motivated and aspires to prepare for upcoming non-formal education strategy development as well as cooperating with the Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme to implement selected action points such as training of trainers on pedagogy skills for basic vocational training, curriculum development for bamboo handicraft production, weaving and embroidery non-formal courses and providing basic vocational training for students of non-formal education centres.

    The Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme is co-financed by Lao PDR, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Switzerland and the European Union, and jointly implemented by the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.

  • LAOS - Beekeeping study tour in Xiengkhouang Province A continued journey to empower beekeepers from Bokeo

    Published on 2 April 2024    By Anaïs LOGIER   EN

    A recent study tour organised by the Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry (STAF) Programme, together with the Local Development Programme, to Xiengkhouang Province opened up opportunities for enhancing beekeeping practices in partner villages in Bokeo Province. Study tour participants, including beekeepers, trainers from two beekeeping training centres, representatives of Provincial and District Agriculture and Forestry Offices, and representatives of the Ministry of Education and Sports’ Department of Non-Formal Education, embarked on an enriching journey to promote knowledge exchange and skills development.

    From 2017 to 2019, there was a notable surge in honey production and sales in Bokeo Province. To bolster this thriving livelihood activity, the Local Development Programme in its previous phase, supported skills development and equipment for existing and new beekeepers in the province, thereby enhancing their beekeeping practices[1]. The STAF Programme is now working with the Local Development Programme to ensure that local beekeepers have access to the necessary resources and expertise to help overcome market fluctuations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and forge a resilient path forward for local honey production.

    Traveling via Vientiane Capital, participants from Bokeo Province flew to Xiengkhouang Province. This was particularly exciting for some beekeepers who had never left their province or been on a plane before. Upon arrival in Phonsavan, the group had a brief opportunity to delve into the cultural heritage of the province by visiting the renowned UNESCO world heritage Plain of Jars a spectacular and mysterious site with some 460 jars of unknown origin, carved in stone, which probably served as funerary urns thousands of years ago.

    The following two days were dedicated to experience sharing and valuable learning opportunities on beekeeping practices. Participants visited beekeepers in Phosy Village, Phek District, where they learned about new techniques applied by local beekeepers, observed the use of different materials and equipment and engaged in insightful discussions about honey production and the challenges it faces, including climate change. Villagers from Phosy Village also showcased beekeeping-derived products such as candles, soaps and lipsticks, and organised a small tasting of local honey. All participants then enjoyed a delicious traditional lunch prepared by the villagers before heading to Phon Village, where further honey-making practices were explored, fostering a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved.

    The following morning, the group visited a beekeeping processing centre in Peak District, providing them with a great opportunity to gain deeper insights into honey processing and marketing practices.

    A highlight of the trip was the visit to Phonxay Village, where beekeepers demonstrated their use of horizontal log hives and highlighted their benefits. This interactive session facilitated, once again, constructive discussions and knowledge-sharing among participants from Bokeo and from Xiengkhouang.

    The study tour provided an ideal platform for listening sessions, interactive demonstrations, and in-depth discussions on various facets of beekeeping, including processing techniques, necessary equipment and effective marketing strategies. One of the key takeaways was the emphasis on both technical skills and the recognition of the social and economic development potential of beekeeping initiatives at the village, district, and provincial levels.

    Participant feedback underlines the study tour’s resounding success, with many eager to apply newly learned techniques and strategies in their own communities.

    Mr. Somdy Sayyatour, from Phienghut Village, Pha Odom District, Bokeo Province, lauded the study tour for its exposure to innovative practices and expressed eagerness to share his learnings with fellow farmers. “I’m so pleased I got the chance to be a part of this trip” he explained. “In my village, we’ve been practicing beekeeping for a short time and we use local traditional methods. Thanks to this tour, I’ve learnt new ones such as the use of wax to catch bees in the hives. I look forward to sharing the knowledge I gained with the other beekeepers in my village.” This trip was a great opportunity for Mr. Somdy to improve his beekeeping skills, while exploring another region of Lao PDR. He concluded, “it was nice to meet new people from other provinces and share local experiences. Overall, I had a lot of fun”.

    Ms. Phetsamone Manivong also shared her satisfaction regarding the study tour, which marked her first field trip in her new position as technical staff of the Livestock Section at the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, Bokeo. She was very impressed with the local knowledge and skills demonstrated by the beekeepers in Xiengkhouang. “I can clearly see a difference between farmers in both provinces. Here, they are much more creative and advanced in terms of techniques. In Bokeo, we have much less means and resources”. Ms. Phetsamone commended the initiative for its tangible impact and pledged continued support for implementing new techniques in Bokeo Province.

    One week after the beekeeping study tour, the STAF and Local Development Programmes supported the Bokeo Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office to organise a workshop to review lessons learned and develop training plans for beekeepers for the upcoming year. These plans address both technical and marketing skills needs of Bokeo beekeepers. It is expected that these efforts will help revive honey production business in Bokeo Province post-COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme is co-financed by the Lao PDR, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Switzerland and the European Union, and implemented by the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.

    The Local Development Programme is co-financed by the Lao PDR, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Switzerland, and implemented by the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.

  • LAOS - Cooperating for the provision of Non-Formal Vocational Skills Development in Agriculture and Forestry

    Published on 20 December 2023    By Anaïs LOGIER   EN

    On 13 and 14 December 2023, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) Department of Non-Formal Education (DNFE), together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperatives (DAEC), supported by Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry (STAF) Programme (LAO/336), held a workshop to identify opportunities for inter-departmental cooperation for the provision of non-formal and informal agriculture and forestry vocational skills development (VSD). 

    The workshop was chaired by Mr Nouphanh Outsa, Director-General, MoES Department of Technical and Vocational Education, and co-chaired by Mr Sengaloun Boutsady, Deputy Director-General, MoES DNFE and Dr Phanxay Ingxay, Deputy Director-General, MAF DAEC. Workshop participants included representatives of provincial non-formal education centres, as well as provincial agriculture and forestry offices.

    The workshop had two objectives: 

    • to introduce the agriculture and forestry components of the STAF Programme to public non-formal and informal VSD providers in Lao PDR;
    • and to establish a foundation for cooperation in non-formal and informal VSD delivery.

    Following presentations of the STAF Programme (and the Local Development Programme (LAO/338) with which the STAF Programme collaborates), a discussion panel comprising Mr Nouphanh Outsa, Mr Sengaloun Boutsady, Dr Phanxay Ingxay, and Mr Phetsamon Thanasack, Deputy Director-General, MAF Department of Organisation and Personnel, delved into the specific roles, responsibilities, and challenges encountered by different departments and ministries in delivering non-formal and informal VSD in agriculture and forestry. The afternoon session saw participants divided into three groups to discuss their 2024 activity plans for non-formal and informal agriculture and forestry VSD.

    On the second day, participants were grouped by provinces (Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Khammouane and Bolikhamxay) to discuss and encourage potential synergies among stakeholders within each province to execute activity plans.

    During the workshop, a noticeable convergence emerged in the 2024 workplans of the DNFE and DAEC (and their provincial representatives) further underlining the importance of coordination mechanisms and ongoing dialogue to prevent duplication of effort and optimisation of benefits for people in rural communities. With a shared commitment to coordination and dialogue, the MoES and the MAF are confident that joint efforts will be undertaken, maximising the impact of non-formal and informal VSD in the agriculture and forestry sectors in Lao PDR. 

    The LAO/336 - Skills for Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry Programme is co-financed by Laos, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Switzerland and the European Union, and implemented by the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.

  • LAOS - Skills programme launched to boost tourism, agriculture forestry

    Published on 27 September 2023    By Nicolas TASCH   FR EN

    The Government of Lao PDR and "Team Europe" partners, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Switzerland and the European Union, gathered this 26 September 2023 in Vientiane Capital to launch the “Skills for tourism, agriculture and forestry” (STAF) programme with a total budget of EUR 25M.

    The STAF launching event coincided with the first Programme Steering committee and was chaired by H.E. Associate Professor Dr. Phout Simmalavong, Minister of Education and Sports, who was joined by the co-chairs, Mr. Thomas Lammar, Chargé d’Affaires, Luxembourg Embassy to Lao PDR, H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė, Ambassador of the European Union to Lao PDR, and Ms. Aurélie Righetti, Deputy Director of Cooperation for the Mekong Region, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

    Developing young people's skills and helping them find work more easily

    The new five year-programme aims to improve the skills and employability of young women and men in the tourism, agriculture and forestry sectors. It will do this by providing technical and financial assistance to:

    • improve the relevance and quality of training;
    •  increase the availability and accessibility of courses, including through the provision of scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds;
    • and support learners in the transition from training to jobs or self-employment.

    The STAF programme is expected to directly benefit over 20 000 young women and men, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Its interventions in the tourism sector will cover the provinces of Vientiane, Khammouane, Bolikhamxay, Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, Champasak, and Vientiane Capital. For agriculture and forestry, its partner provinces are Vientiane, Khammouane, Bolikhamxay, Bokeo and Luang Prabang.

    The STAF programme is cofinanced by the Lao PDR, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Switzerland and the European Union, and implemented by the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.