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IFAD and The Lao Government Commit to Improving Nutrition in Rural Areas

Source: Lao News Agency

(KPL) The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Lao Government has committed to improving nutrition in rural areas with US$85.29 million pledged for the effort.

Of the funding, IFAD is providing US $21.03 million as the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Green Climate Fund contribute the rest.

IFAD is co-financing two projects in the Lao PDR: the Partnerships for Irrigation and Commercialisation of Smallholder Agriculture (PICSA) project (US $30 million; 2019-2025), which focuses on intensified agricultural development, value-chain development, and improved nutritional practices; and the new Agriculture For Nutrition Phase 2 (AFN Phase 2) project (US $48.30 million; 2023-2029), which builds on the results and experiences of AFN in improving food and nutrition security, enhancing climate resilience and increasing small-scale farmers’ incomes.

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PICSA aims to reach 89,440 small-scale farmers and their families across 17,200 households in 353 villages of 19 districts in four provinces, including Xieng Khuang, Huaphan, Xaybouly, and Luang Prabang.

These households include the nutritionally vulnerable extreme poor, poor, and near-poor households. The project comprises three components: (i) intensified agricultural development; (ii) value chains developed; (iii) improved nutritional practices.

While the Lao PDR has seen significant economic growth over the last two decades, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate shocks, and the situation in Ukraine have constrained efforts to improve living conditions in recent years, leading to declining growth and an increase in unemployment rates and the cost of living.

The crisis has taken a serious toll on rural families, already disproportionately affected by poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition.

Over 60 percent of people in the Lao PDR live in rural areas, and many depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most farmers use traditional farming methods and lack access to functional irrigation and good roads. Many struggle to meet household food requirements, making malnutrition a critical issue.

Malnutrition levels remain high, with a third of children under five years of age stunted, and 40 percent of women found to be anemic.

“Small-scale farmers in the Lao PDR are a great example of the kind of potential we can unlock for rural people and communities in collaboration with our partners,” said the Associate Vice-President of the Strategy and Knowledge Department at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Ms. Jyotsna Puri.

“If we can provide access to finance, training, technology, and markets, we can help rural families build more prosperous lives for themselves and reduce hunger and malnutrition. IFAD has longstanding experience around the world in working with governments to transform rural areas and we’ve seen the results of this partnership in our work with the Lao PDR as well,” she added.

Ms. Jyotsna Puri and IFAD’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Ms. Reehana Raza are visiting the Lao PDR between Jan 31 and Feb 1.

The visit focuses on the role of small-scale farmers in improving household nutrition and food security through sustainable agriculture.

The IFAD delegation and the UN Resident Coordinator, Sara Sekkenes, visited Oudomxay Province and saw first-hand the results of IFAD’s support through the Agriculture for Nutrition program (AFN Phase I), financed by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) and managed by IFAD. Oudomxay Provincial Vice-Governor Ounkeo Ounalom and provincial and district authorities introduced the UN delegation to small-scale farmers who have learned, through the AFN program, to produce crops and livestock responding to market demands and also to connect to and collaborate with the private sector.

The delegation also met members of an agricultural production group who received grants to raise fish, pigs, and poultry and grow vegetables for nutritiously balanced meals and additional incomes.