By Nonoy Villas, Regional Program Manager, Asiadhrra
In another groundbreaking milestone, Asiadhrra launched its first development cooperation project in Laos. On the occasion of FASAP’s planning workshop held last January 16-17, 2014, Asiadhrra and Farmers Association for Sustainable Agriculture Production (FASAP) in Khoun District, Xiengkhouang Province, Lao PDR signed an agreement of cooperation to strengthen the leadership and organization capacity of FASAP. AsiaDHRRA agreed to finance the implementation of the project entitled “Capacity-building of FASAP farmers organization in Khoun District, Xiengkhouang Province” with the funds provided by the Belgium government under DGD Belgium Cooperation. The signing was witnessed by 14 representatives from 14 villages, elected leaders, representatives from the District Authorities of Lao government and staff of SAEDA.
The Farmers Association for Sustainable Agriculture Production (FASAP) was established on December 27, 2010 and was registered at the District Office in Xienhkhouang Province. At the start, there were 300 farming households members in 7 villages of Khoun District. FASAP aims to develop and share best practices in sustainable agriculture techniques and organic production; supply safe agricultural products to consumers; derive better benefits from farming, and contribute to poverty reduction and environment conservation in province.
Earlier, the Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Development Association (SAEDA), a long-time partner of AsiaDHRRA in Laos had the opportunity to work with the Laos Youth Union in Xieng Khouang province. Such opportunity provided SAEDA venues to organize training activities on sustainable agriculture. The opportunity facilitated the formation of FASAP.
In the years 2010-2013, SAEDA worked with the Laos Agricultural Extension Program (LEAP) and the District Agriculture and Forest Office (DAFO), allowing continued support to FASAP through participatory agricultural extension support. FASAP expanded to include 4 more villages and expanded its membership. FASAP is planning to expand its scope to 14 more villages in the coming years. But prior to this expansion plans, FASAP leadership felt the need to strengthen the FASAP’s organizational capacity, in leadership, governance, management, planning, implementing and evaluating, among others. District association is a new concept in Laos and there are no existing formats or guidelines on the steps for establishing and managing farmers association. FASAP Committees as well as farmer-members have little understanding of their roles as well as their full potential as members of an association. There is also a lack of skills in running an association (administration and management), business planning, monitoring and reporting, and financial management.
Asiadhrra responded to FASAP needs by supporting activities that will help FASAP enhance its organizational capacities, improve governance and develop human resources to manage the organization and provide better services to its members. Asiadhrra through its partner, SAEDA, will accompany FASAP in the implementation of the project.
AsiaDHRRA is now working on possible cooperation with two other farmers organizations, namely:
- The Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers’ Groups Association or AGPC in Champasak Province of Southern Laos
- Farmers Association in Khangvieng Zone, Peck District, Xiengkouang Province, Laos.
Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers’ Groups Association or AGPC was organized by the Lao government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with the support from the French cooperation through its agency AFD (Agence Française de Développement). AGPC was formed in August 7th in 2007. AGPC is a coffee producers organization composed of 2,650 families divided into 53 groups. About 60% of these families live below the poverty threshold. These producers organized themselves in groups in order to increase the value-added of their produce and to fight against all forms of exploitation. 40 small wet-processing centres were created between 2007 and 2008. In April 2010, a fully-fledged coffee factory that can produce sorted grade green coffee for export (Organic and Fair Trade certified) and roasted quality coffee for the domestic market was opened. In addition, a sensory analysis laboratory was officially opened in February 2011. AGPC and its members own all these facilities.
Support from AFD will end by June 2014 as AFD sees AGPC now being able to support its own operations from the revenues generated in their export markets. AGPC, however, is planning to expand its export markets as well as develop domestic markets for its grounded and instant coffee products and therefore, requires additional members from among the small-coffee growers.
Khangvieng Zone is part of Peck district, Xiengkhouang province. It is located 35 kilometers from Phonsavanh City, in the northern part of Laos, where mountains cover around 85% of the area.
The Farmers Association in Khangvieng Zone (FAKZ) is an organization of farmers located on marginal lands near the forest in Peck District. With poor resources, farmers rely on rice for food and cash income, as well as, forest products for fuel and heating. FAKZ members aims to develop their farms, improve productivity, rely more in their production and reduce reliance of forest products for their daily needs.
FAKZ was organized through the support of Asiadhrra long-time partner of Community Development and Environment Association (CDEA). CDEA has accompanied FAKZ, among other farmers organization, in their efforts to achieve appropriate capacities to strengthen their organization.
AsiaDHRRA provides support to farmers organizations in Asia under the banner program “Farmers Fighting Poverty” (FFP) (http://www.farmersfightingpoverty.org/en) of Agricord, (http://www.agricord.org/about) of which AsiaDHRRA is a member.