laosLao PDR is a landlocked Southeastern country. Its population is about 1.6 million (2012).  The name of its capital is Vientiane. The country is divided into 16 provinces (qwang), which are further divided into districts (muang) and then villages (baan). Tourism is a fast growing industry due to relaxed style of living. There is significant dependence on donors’ assistance for economic development. The infrastructure is inadequate. Power is partially available in rural areas. Brain drain is a serious problem. May to November is rainy season while the dry season lasts from December to April. The country is faced with environmental issues, in particular rapid deforestation. Agriculture sector contributes 51 percent to the GDP. About 80 percent of the population is involved in agriculture, and about 97 percent of the farmers are owners of their lands.

Under subsistence agriculture, about 80 percent of the arable area is used for growing sticky rice. Other farming activities include vegetable gardening, cash crops (mung-beans, soybeans, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and tea), rearing of animals (goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, water buffaloes and cattle) and growing of mango, coconut, banana, jackfruit, tamarind trees, and some maize. Hunting and fishing are popular.

History

History of extension and the enabling/disabling environment

Lao PDR has seen a number of extension approaches followed over the years. Until recently, various technical departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry had their individual technology transfer arrangements. However, since the creation of National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) in 2001, a comprehensive, unified extension service has been in operation. Assisted by a Swiss-funded Laos Extension for Agriculture Project (LEAP), the country has developed a consolidated extension approach called Lao Extension Approach (LEA). The LEA is supposedly based on the following principles: decentralized, pluralistic, participatory, needs-based, integrated, gender-sensitive, group-based, self-motivated, and sustainable.  The extension services cover agriculture, livestock, forestry and irrigation. 

Key Statistics and Indicators

Indicator

Value

Year  

Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)

23,460

10.16

1,360,000

5.89

0.22

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

Fertilizer consumption (per hectare of arable land)

   

Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)

125

2.56

31.66

2009

1974

1974

GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)

1040

2010

Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)

72.70

78.73

89.18

88.28

80.52

2005

2005

2005

2005

2008

Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)

64.56

6.99

2010

2010

Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population*

Rural population (% of total population)*

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

    of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

     total economically active population in agriculture)*

6,200,894

26.86

4,143,000

66.81

74.92

2,369,000

57.02

52.30

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

Sources: The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO

The government is serious about developing an effective extension system in the country, which is evident from the plans to invest about $ 29 million by 2015 in the development of extension and relevant infrastructure. Local NGOs are non-existent. However, quite a number of international NGOs are active in agricultural projects in spite of rather strict government regulations. The Lao Extension Approach is being actively but cautiously followed but it still has to be expanded throughout the country which has diverse topography, microclimates and agriculture. Extension problems surfaced so far include a lack of competent extension generalists who can help start Village Extension System programs, and long physical distances between villages and between villages and district extension offices. Another problem which might arise later is the frustration of the production groups of farmers who would gain knowledge through Learning Projects of one or two seasons, but then will find no funds to start real-life projects based on the knowledge gained. A commendable feature of the extension service in Lao PDR is that unlike in most developing countries, extension staff is not given non-extension tasks to perform nor does it focus on increasing agricultural production because the thrust of extension approach remains educational.

Active donors include SIDA, SDC, World Bank and FAO. The SDC-funded project LEAP (Lao Extension for Agriculture Project), mentioned earlier, has been very significant in strengthening the extension services of Lao PDR. The goal of the project was to support the development of a decentralized, participatory, pluralistic and sustainable agricultural extension system that reaches male and female farmers equally. Phase I of the project started in November 2001 and ended in December 2004 while Phase II started in January 2005 and ended in 2007.

 

Acknowledgements

  • Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (June 2012)
  • Edited by Burton E. Swanson

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