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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Officials outline five-year vision for agriculture sector (Vientiane Times, 13th January 2011)

Over the next five years the agriculture and forestry sector plans to bolster agricultural productivity to ensure food security and contribute to the goal of lowering the poverty rate to less than 24 percent of the population.
The focus will be on shifting agricultural production from subsistence-based to commercial cultivation for sale in local markets and for export, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Sitaheng Rasphone said at a meeting of agricultural and forestry officials in Vientiane yesterday.
The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, will also focus on expanding access to new technology to help farmers improve crop production and achieve higher yields, he said.
The ministry aims to increase agricultural and forestry production by 3.5 to 4 percent per year over the next five years and ensure that the sector accounts for 23 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product.
To reach the goals, the ministry will implement activities covering four targets, eight plans and 13 measures, said Mr Sitaheng.
The first target is to improve people's living conditions by boosting agricultural production and livestock breeding for food security; the second is to increase commercial production through the use of new technology; the third target is to ensure permanent livelihoods to reduce poverty; and the last is to eradicate shifting cultivation practices and ensure sustainable forestry management.
All of these targets are aimed at increasing the ability of Lao farmers to combat changes in climatic conditions and ensure sufficient supply of foodstuffs for domestic markets and for export, he said.
By 2015, the ministry hopes farmers around the nation will be producing 4.15 million tonnes of rice annually, of which 70 percent will be sticky rice and 30 percent white rice, Mr Sitaheng said.
The nation should have an annual rice surplus of 400,000-500,000 tonnes, or enough for 450-500kg per person per year, and also enough meat and fish for an annual average of 66kg per capita in urban areas and 48kg per capita in rural areas.
The ministry will continue to conduct sustainable management of three different classifications of forests and ensure coverage reaches 65 percent by 2015, up from the current figure of about 52 percent.
Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad advised agriculture and forestry officials to help farmers shift from sufficiency-based production to commercial production and boost industrialisation of the sector to integrate with international markets.
“Firstly we should investigate the untapped potential of the agriculture and forestry sector and decide what the best commercial crops are,” Mr Somsavat said.
This will help promote increased agricultural production for supply to domestic markets and for export abroad, he said.
The ministry should also work to group together agricultural producers so that they can more easily boost agricultural production and guarantee the quality of their products while reducing capital expenditure.
Other important factors are ensuring sufficient supply of high quality seeds and fertilisers so that farmers can boost output and assisting farmers to shift from labour-based cultivation to machine-based farming, Mr Somsavat said. The ministry should also focus on human resources development and increasing capacity building in agricultural research, he explained.
Achievement of the targets can't be met without greater coordination between central and local authorities, especially the ministry and provincial departments as well as agricultural research institutes.
The meeting runs until Friday and is being attended by representatives from the agriculture and forestry sector and other officials from other relevant sectors around the country.

By Khamphone Syvongxay
(Latest Update
January 13, 2011)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oarfish caught by US Navy seals in Coronado, California (1996)

Attapeu seeks solutions to polluted river (Vientiane Times, 7 Dec 2010)

Vientiane Times, Tuesday 7 December 2010
Attapeu seeks solutions to polluted river
Provincial environmental officials have sought guidance in dealing with the problem of contaminated water in the Xekhamane River in Attapeu province, which began two years ago.
Head of the provincial Water Resource and Environment Office, Mr Navalath Nouanthong, told the Vientiane Times yesterday that last week his department submitted a letter to the provincial authorities to seek guidance and approval for talks with the provincial government bodies involved.
At least 10 villages in Xaysettha and Samakhixay districts, whose daily water consumption is dependent on the river, are suffering from mud-contaminated water. The problem has been going on for two years and is believed to be caused by development projects in the area.
Once approved, the meeting will bring together the department and the public works and transport, health, and agricultural sectors.
The meeting will outline solutions for introducing new water sources so local people have access to cleaner water.
“We need to identify exactly how many families are affected, what sort of water sources can be introduced, and what is the required budget,” Mr Navalath said.
The officials intend to negotiate with the development projects involved to seek a financial contribution to the solution package.
The Xekhamane I and III hydropower projects in neighbouring Xekong province, as well as gold mining along the river are among the projects contributing to pollution of the river.
A technical team has tested samples of the mud-contaminated water and has identified the proportion of pollution each project has contributed, he said.
Mr Navalath said building artesian wells, wells, and gravity-fed water systems could be the best way to provide affected people with clean water.
In negotiating with development project operators, the officials hope to convince them to contribute to the cost of installing these facilities.
It is impractical to bring the projects to a halt, but Mr Navalath reiterated that all stakeholders should join hands to tackle the problems they caused.
It is apparent that work to install new water sources is taking longer than expected. Mr Navalath told the Vientiane Times in August that affected families would have clean water on tap by the end of the rainy season in October.
Mr Navalath was unable to say exactly when the meeting would be held, but said it would take place shortly after getting the green light.
He admitted that some people were continuing to use the muddy river water for bathing, while others were sharing water from artesian wells in other communities.
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update December 07, 2010)