Laos – “Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced”High-level field visit within the scope of LAO/030 Local Development Programme in Laos
The Lao Luxembourg Cooperation Programme will launch the “Local Development Programme for Bokeo, Bolikhamxay, Khammouane and Vientiane Provinces – LAO/030” in May 2017. This 23 million EUR programme will support poverty reduction in more than 200 villages in the poorest districts of the four target provinces. The project is based on the highly successful Bolikhamxay Livelihood Improvement and Governance Project - LAO/021 Project carried out in 2010-16, which contributed substantially to improving living standards in 60 target villages through innovative poverty reduction strategies.
To help the new programme get off to a good start and to create a common understanding of the planned principles and modalities, the Bolikhamxay provincial authorities arranged a four-day field visit to the LAO/021 project area, including discussions with people in eight of the former target villages.
The participants included representatives from the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the four provincial planning departments of LAO/030, staff from three districts visited, and project staff. Notably, the Director General of MPI’s Planning Department, Madame Phonevanh Outhavong, and the Director-General of LuxDev, Mr Gaston Schwartz, participated in the visit, along with the LuxDev Regional Representative, Mr Olivier Hecquet.
At a practical level, the study tour gave an opportunity to observe some of the tangible results of the LAO/021 project, including village development funds, credit schemes, district micro-finance institutions, and rural infrastructure such as schools, water supply schemes, and bridges. This established a framework for discussions on the innovative principles for decentralisation, participation and empowerment at province, district, and village levels. Through these mechanisms, the LAO/021 project delegated 56% of its budget to Lao implementing partners, used Lao government structures throughout the project and spent 72% of the funds on village-level interventions with a direct poverty focus. Moreover, the project promoted capacity development through learning-by-doing, supported by targeted training, coaching and technical assistance. These modalities will be adopted and further developed in the new LAO/030 programme.
While decentralisation, participation and local democracy are firmly embedded in the Lao government’s policies, their actual application requires further advocacy and practical examples to ensure that the implementing government agencies have full confidence and understanding of their use. In this regard, the field visit offered an excellent opportunity for discussion among the group of composed of both strategic decision makers and practical implementers. The presence of the two Director-Generals gave further weight to the importance of building LAO/030 on shared values and principles, which is essential for executing a highly decentralised and multi-sectorial programme.
The LAO/030 programme will, over the coming 5-6 months, develop action plans to align the support with the local development plans of the four target provinces. Guidelines and initial capacity development will also be carried out in order for practical activities to commence in earnest at the start of the dry season in September, when the remote target villages are accessible and farmers have completed their busy cropping season.
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