Representatives of government agencies, the private sector, civil society and development partners yesterday participated in the second Sector Working Group on Agriculture and Rural Development (SWG-ARD) meeting of 2018.
The meeting in Vientiane aimed to look specifically at the uplands, a key but challenging area for the government’s plans for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Phouangparisack Pravongviengkham, opened the meeting by noting the contribution from the agriculture sector to the mid-term review of the 8th National Socio-economic Development Plan (NSEDP).
He emphasised the role of public-private partnerships and their positive impact on people and the environment when done in compliance with international standards.
The secretariat of the SWG provided updates on various aspects of progress in 2018 with nutrition-sensitive agriculture at the heart of the government’s priorities and the ministry engaging in dialogue with development partners to foster the use of a common framework and set of indicators.
A detailed contribution of the SWG-ARD to the mid-term of the 8th NSEDP was provided, highlighting some of the key government policies, initiatives and institutional reforms which took place 2016-2018.
Newly formed, the sub-sector working group on rural development took this opportunity to present the results of their discussions on the mandate, the wellbeing criteria and development criteria.
Challenges are numerous for this new sub-sector working group but the interest from the government and development partners is huge.
Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry then delivered a set of presentations on the Lao Uplands Initiative. This initiative has engaged a consortium of projects and institutions to reflect on recent transformations and their impacts on upland populations, taking stock of the main lessons from past and on-going interventions and developing a roadmap towards sustainable development goals.
UN Resident Coordinator on behalf of the FAO Representative to Laos, Ms Kaarina Immonen, stated the importance of climate change adaptation for the agriculture sector given the large impact on economic growth and the close link to disaster preparedness.
The priority focuses are on the SME sector, especially smallholder farmers, as they are more vulnerable to climate change while playing an important role in contributing to national economic growth.
French Ambassador to Laos Ms Claudine Ledoux emphasised the key role the private sector and civil society could play in close cooperation with the authorities.
She gave the examples of the Nam Theun II Development Fund and Huaphan Bamboo Development Association, which facilitate discussions between local authorities, farmers and the private sector.
Ongoing support by development partners in the sector was helping to improve farmers’ living conditions and reduce the challenges faced by smallholders especially in developing the uplands, Dr Phouangparisack added.
Vientiane Times, June 19, 2018