LAOS - Healthy food for a better life A story of Ms. Khamkone: The empower women
"I grew up in a low-income family that subsisted solely on rice. I had to drop out of school when I was fourteen to help my parents earn money. I moved to Nahad after marrying my husband and I had three children", says Khamkone, a 56-year-old woman, a model farmer for organic vegetable growers.
"Fortunately, I was able to complete fifth grade as there are only a few people in my neighbourhood who can read and write. With the added responsibilities of leading and serving as a role model for others, my life as the head of the village was challenging. I didn't have much money to begin with, so I had to work very hard to be a mother, a wife, and the leader of this community all at the same time”, Khamkone recounts.
Ms Khamphone a model farmer at Nahad village Khamkurd district, Bolikhamxay province, © LuxDev
Nahad is one of the LAO/030 programme’s target villages in Khamkeud district. The village is located in a remote area close to the Vietnam border, 22 km away from the district’s main town. Currently Nahad has a population of 699, made up of 121 households who mainly belong to the Lao-Tai ethnic group. The Local Development Programme LAO/030 aims to improve living standards in its target villages. Often this support builds on the existing knowledge and resources in the villages, and further develops villagers’ skills, allowing them to improve their living conditions in a sustainable way. In the case of Nahad, its villagers considered healthy food a key priority and set the vision of being declared an organic vegetable producing village by the end of 2021. There is a long way to go before being certified, and they must go through many steps and meet numerous administrative and technical requirements. Still, through the LAO/030 programme’s village development fund, Nahad now has the opportunity to transform itself into a model village for organic agricultural production. To do so, representatives from the production group and the agricultural extension office went on a study tour to Xiengkhuang province in June 2020 to learn from other organic vegetable production groups. It was a positive visit, which not only gave them the opportunity to learn and to ask questions, but also more confidence to continue their organic planting when they returned home.
Khamphone enjoys taking care of her vegetables, © LuxDev
"It was my first visit to Xiengkhuang province. I was overjoyed. We visited several villages to learn about organic planting processes, composting, chemical-free production methods and how to use local resources for pest control and bio-fertilizers, which completely changed my perspective on planting and farming."
Upon her return, Khamkone began to make bio-fertilizers and compost. She immediately noticed a difference as she was able to save on fertilizer and sell more vegetables that are now chemical-free.
In February 2021, 29 members of the Nahad production group participated in a five-day training course on organic vegetable growing techniques and practices, with the help of a resource person who they met in Xiengkhouang in June 2020.
"After learning about the dangers of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the benefits of using natural waste, I have never grown in the same way again. In terms of health and finances, my life has considerably improved. The best thing is that our food is completely safe. I can really see my family living healthily and happily", Khamkone says.
Khamphone is showing to her villagers how to make bio-fertilizers, © LuxDev
Nowadays, the many villagers have adopted organic farming methods and local resources for creating compost fertilizer and bio-pesticides for insect control. Furthermore, with the assistance of the Clean Agriculture Standard Center (CASC), three selected farmers, including Khamkone, were recently trained to be members of Internal Control System (ICS) to control and monitor the usage of chemical fertilizers.
Through the three model farmers, the CASC can monitor local compliance with ICS standards. The CASC regularly consults with them to help them in achieving their goal. Moreover, the district agricultural office is attempting to create market areas where organic veggies can be sold.
I will continue to push for organic products. The challenge is that some farmers are still reluctant to grow organic vegetables over fears of losing produce. This motivated me to become a successful example and to prove that what we were aiming to do can be done..
Ms Khamphone a model farmer-Nahad village, Khamkurd district, Bolikhamxay province
Nahad village is currently an important production area, creating jobs for local middlemen to deliver vegetables to the three main markets and neighbouring areas, improving food security in the district. The goal of becoming a model organic community is not far away if the district and village maintain their intention and the serious effort it requires.
To raise peoples’ standard of living, the programme will strive to upscale good practices such as these and will continue to support farmers.
Organic vegetable production has become increasingly popular in the Lao PDR in recent years. As the standard of living and education has improved, people have become more aware of the importance of consuming better and healthier foods, including vegetables free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. At policy level, the 9th National Social and Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) 2021-2025 has highlighted the need for a sustainable management and use of natural resources, and a national green growth strategy entailing environmentally friendly practices in agricultural production. Consequently, the Lao government is currently working to reduce the use of chemicals fertilizers in agriculture and to support organic farming practices by transitioning away from chemically fertilized vegetables to cleaner vegetables (grown with a minimum use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, meeting safety standards for consumers) and finally to purely organic vegetables.
The Local Development Programme for Bokeo, Bolikhamxay, Khammouane and Vientiane Province, LAO/030, is co-funded by the Government of Laos and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and is implemented by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.
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