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Laos: Celebrating the Land, Part 2

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Published on Feb 22, 2008

Part 1: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=p4d7try...
/videoplay?docid=1483389937543458935&hl=en

Also see: http://www.irri.org/index.php?option=...

Celebrating the Land, Parts 1 and 2, a video produced by the International Research Institute (IRRI; http://irri.org), celebrates the accomplishments of the Lao-IRRI Project. The Green Revolution has finally arrived in Laos, almost 20 years after benefiting the rest of Asia. It has provided the tiny nation -- one of Asia's poorest -- with the food security foundation it needs for future economic development. But the spark for this revolution came from half a world away, from the government of another small, mountainous land-locked nation -- Switzerland.

It was the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC; http://www.sdc.org.vn) that provided the financial resources needed for the 16-year effort -- led jointly by the Lao national rice research system and IRRI. The accomplishments of the Lao-IRRI Rice Research and Training Project was effectively completed in September 2006. Between 1990 and 2004, rice production in Laos increased from 1.5 million to 2.5 million tons -- an average annual growth rate of more than 5%, making the small underdeveloped nation one of Asia's star performers in rice research and development.

This increase in production -- largely attributed to the adoption of Lao modern varieties -- has been valued at $8 million to $19 million per year, with households adopting these varieties having more than triple the cash income of households growing traditional varieties. A third of Laos' lowland rice area is planted with these improved varieties today, pushing average rice yields up 35 percent from 2.3 tons/ha in 1989 to 3.1 t/ha today -- well above the average yields of bigger neighbors such as Thailand.

"What's particularly impressive about these achievements is the commitment of the SDC in providing such long-term support, and the hard work and dedication of Lao rice researchers and government officials," says IRRI Director General Robert Zeigler. "Seventeen of the 18 modern varieties now being used in Laos were developed inside the country."

Since 1990, more than 4,000 training opportunities involving Lao personnel have extensively boosted Laos's rice research and training capacity and played a key role in establishing a rice research network covering the entire nation. "IRRI is very proud of the role it has played in supporting this achievement, but the real credit must go the Lao rice research community and the Swiss government for providing the financial support," Dr. Zeigler adds.

"Fifteen years ago, most Laotians were subsistence rice farmers and Laos was a net importer of rice," Dr. Zeigler says. "Now the country is in the second stage of rice-based economic development, where the intensification of production is enough to meet local market demands. "With further research and development, Laos can move into the third stage, where lowland rice exports create a sustainable source of revenue and help fuel economic growth, as has happened already in Vietnam and Thailand." He said that while this week marks the end of the Swiss-financed Lao-IRRI Project, much work remains to be done.

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