EFICAS 2017 annual workshop
Innovative landscape approaches for sustainable agricultural intensification in the Northern uplands of Lao PDR
Over the past decades a large range of technical options have been tested in the Northern Uplands of Lao PDR to support the transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture. These solutions to a sustainable intensification of upland agriculture are well known by most stakeholders, including village communities. For example, incorporating legume crops in association or rotation with upland rice and maize can improve soil fertility and reduce soil erosion while controlling pest and weed pressure on the crops. These eco-friendly practices also contribute to climate change mitigation by accumulating carbon in the soil and adaptation by buffering the erratic climate events (both droughts and heavy rainfalls) thanks to the soil coverage with crop residues.
So why do not upland farmers massively adopt these beneficial practices?
For Mr. Chanthasone Khamxaykhay, staff of the Department of Agricultural Land Management (DALaM-MAF) and director of the Eco-Friendly Intensification and Climate resilient Agricultural Systems (EFICAS) Project, the reasons for low adoption of eco-friendly innovations are “most often not related to the cropping techniques themselves but to external causes, such as the freely roaming cattle and buffaloes that eat the relay crops during the winter or because of limited knowledge of existing market outlets for the legume crops, or simply because farmers find it less labor consuming to till their land or to use chemical products instead of organic practices”. Innovation is not a straightforward process.
During the past two years, the EFICAS project funded by the European Union (EU – Global Climate Change Alliance) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) have tackled these complex issues faced by upland communities in the 3 target provinces of the Northern Upland Development Program (NUDP) Program, namely Luang Prabang, Huaphan, Phongsaly, based on lessons learnt from previous projects on conservation agriculture implemented in the two provinces of Sayabouri and Xieng Khouang. The annual meeting of the EFICAS-NUDP/CA Project organized in Luang Prabang on March 27th was the occasion to monitor progresses and to share experiences among partners of the project.
Mr. Khamphone Rasachack, DALaM general director reminded the 60 meeting participants that “integrative approaches like the participatory landscape approach designed by the EFICAS project were necessary to sustain agricultural intensification and eradicate poverty”. Recognizing that in many cases the constraints to the adoption of innovative cropping practices lie in collectively-agreed changes regarding village landscape and land use management, Mr. Bounmy Savath, deputy director of the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office of Luang Prabang, urged the participants to “invest in people as much as in technical solutions”. Mrs. Nathalie Bougnoux, AFD Representative, said that she was “positively impressed by the role played by Lao national project staffs in the presentation and discussion of project results and lessons learnt which reflect a strong involvement of local authorities and farmers”, emphasizing the work of the project operating agencies, namely the DALaM and the Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), to build-up the capacities of district extension staffs and turn them into facilitators of the innovation process in target villages. “The EFICAS Project helps improving agricultural production systems in upland areas while preserving soils, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change” said Mr. Ignacio Oliver Cruz from the EU Delegation in Lao PDR, adding that “it is now important to communicate on the results obtained so that they can quickly disseminate outside the target intervention villages of the project”. Finally, Mr. Khamphone Rasachack, director of DALaM, called for “more opportunities of this kind to share experiences among stakeholders of upland development and to synergize activities of all green agriculture projects that have the common objective of alleviating poverty in the uplands areas of Lao PDR while preserving its fragile environment”.
Link towards workshop presentations here