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Adapting crop production to climate change in Savannakhet

The early localised effects of global climate change are increasingly upon us, and Laos is no exception.
Climate change is expected to continue to lead to increases in irregular weather events such as extreme droughts and more severe floods, storms, cyclones and heat waves that are expected to have a significant impact on agricultural production, the environment, economic growth and societies as a whole.
Laos is among the countries that will be affected by rising temperatures and their effects, so mitigating risks posed by climate change’s environmental impact through various means is essential.
Agricultural regions in the country will have to take into account the increased severity and frequency of floods and droughts.
In response, a project to enhance agricultural production methods among smallholders in drought affected areas due to climate change is one of projects to help farming households ensure long term food security in Phakkhaya village of Outhoumphon district of Savannakhet province.
The village is also located close to the Savan-Seno Special Economic Zone in the province some 14km from Xeno.
The project’s period is two years from 2017 to 2018 with support through the UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility of some US$38,000.
Project Manager and Deputy Head of Meteorology and Hydrology Department of Water Resources Faculty DrKeoduangchaiKeokhamphui said during the recent visit to the project site in Savannakhet province.
“We selected Phakkhaya village in the Outhoumphon district because smallholders are affected by the weather events and especially by the long lasting droughts in Savannakhet province.
“They are more vulnerable to changes in weather and rely on the crops for both subsistence and income producing cash crops.”
“This challenge will be further complicated by climate change as it is expected to bring severe drought conditions to parts of Laos, with agricultural yields possibly falling by 10 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by the year 2050.
“As a result of these challenges, the project’s purpose is to focus on enhancing agricultural production among smallholders in Phakkhaya village,” he said.
DrKeoduangchai said the project used a community-centred approach that was designed to support the poor with sustainable livelihood improvements, especially increasing food security for smallholders through improved access to rain fed water and groundwater during the dry season and soil improvements using composted material.
The project selected 35 families in total from over 110 families in the village, which they would join the activities of the project on organic crop plantation on the project land parcel of 1 hectare over the two year period.
The land would be further divided into trial production zones for growing vegetables, chili and eggplant, cucumber and tomato, he said.
He said the project also included both male and female participants in the process as their needs in regards to adjustment to droughts and provision of food security would mean that different aspects would need to be considered.
He added this would better serve to guarantee the effective delivery of technical assistance and ensure that adequate information, knowledge, and skills were transferred in a sustainable way through several practical workshops, documentation of processes and outcomes.
 “This project is the first to help our village on providing knowledge of organic plantation on our own land of one hectare,” Phakkhaya village Head MrThongsavathPhanthadeth said.
“It will be good for us to learn new technical skills on planting methods because our villagers are mostly farmers and they mostly plant their crop in their traditional ways that mean we cannot get achieve output due to the longer lasting dry seasons.”
He said the village had over 200 hectares of agricultural land.
Most of villagers were rice farmers, while livestock and crops were key sources of income.
After the completion of the project, the village also plans to cooperate with commercial and agricultural sectors to help identify suitable organic crops for sale.
“Some our villagers normally plant water melon and some other crops to sell around the district, but it is not effective outcome because our land is not fertile and too dry.
“So, this project is good for us to learn new technical skills and help improve our land quality in order to receive higher outcome of production,” he said.
“Crop production in the district mostly consists of water melon, cucumber, long bean and vegetables to sell in Xeno market and other mobile sales around the district,” technical staff of Agricultural and Forestry Office in the district MrPhanthongSouvanni said.
“However, we still lack a secure vegetable supply in our markets during rainy season because over 70 percent of producers in our district are also rice farmers and most of them are busy working in the rice fields during that time of the year.”
“This project is to help our district on organic crop production which we hope will encourage our farmers away from chemical use and turn them toward the safer organic method,” he said.
According to the agricultural office’s plan (2015-2016), crop plantation area was about 650 hectares throughout the district.       
The project is to be implemented by the newly established Faculty of Water Resources (FWR) at the National University of Laos where it currently has 58 staff members.
The FWR was formerly called the Irrigation College and was established on October 1, 1981.
After various name changes and due to the significance of water resource management in Laos, the department of water resources engineering became the Faculty of Water Resources in August 2015.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
April 27,2017 )

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