CIRAD in Laos

Last update: 2 June 2016

Small enclosed mountainous country, in which the population density is even lower than 30 inhabitants/km2, the Lao People's Democratic Republic looks as an exception in South-East Asia. Indeed the country was able to find a relative food self-sufficiency (in particular on rice) without having turned into systems of production as intensive as those of his neighbours more densely populated. Because of the very high diversity of its ecosystems, the country hardly seems to have of comparative advantages for forms of industrial farming based on a large scale and the risk is to design "standard" development projects, favouring the economies of scale, which may not respect the ecological diversity and the cultural identity of the country. Therefore CIRAD is reinforcing its activities on new type of agriculture that optimise yields and preserve biodiversity.

Laos’s agriculture rapidly evolving

In many locations of the Laos country side, it is possible to observe phenomena which were previously described in Thailand or in Vietnam as well as in other continents (effect of roads opening on the deforestation, the privatization of lands tenure in an increasing land pressure context, etc.). The first stages of the development of the forest zones are associated with an intense exploitation of natural resources (deforestation), then, after a while this trend is reversed because of the depletion of resources or the emergence of new opportunities related to the development of the other sectors of the economy (conducting to rural exodus)

Indeed, the boom of cash crops: cassava, corn… affects the traditional Slash-and-burn system of the small farmers, pushing the cultures to the limits of their agro-ecological zone, with a questionable profitability and enormous social and environmental costs. The generalization of the cash crops agriculture increases the vulnerability of the local populations and questions their food safety.

Therefore, in front of the problem of land degradations, the Government of Laos promulgated in 2005 a decree to generalize the practice of the SCV (systems of culture with direct sowing on plant place setting) to the whole country.

In this context, for CIRAD and his partners, one of the major scientific stakes is to design new systems and define tools and mechanisms to support the ecological intensification of the farming in Laos. The natural resources management practices and the biodiversity are in the centre of our scientific questioning, which associates the rural actors with the process of acquisition of the knowledge and explores with them the various scenarios of the possibilities.

Researchers working directly with national institutions

For several years, CIRAD has been developing scientific partnerships with Laos, particularly with national institutions operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and several faculties belonging to the National University of Laos (NUL). After working in various fields such as agroecology, the coffee supply chain, aquaculture and plant biodiversity, today CIRAD is re-centring on agroecology, emerging diseases and on agricultural product markets, notably Geographical Indications.

Nine researchers are located in Laos. Their activities are backed up by numerous scientific support, training and appraisal missions undertaken by other CIRAD staff.

Main fields of involvement

  • Agroecology
  • Economics, agricultural markets
  • Emerging diseases, zoonoses

Research platforms in partnership

Last update: 2 June 2016

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