Agro-Biodiversity key to food security and nutrition

Apr 22, 2016

Women from Huayman Village Mushroom Cultivation Group in Luang Prabang Province making mushroom seed bags as part of the Agro-Biodiversity Project’s work to improve agro-biodiversity and diversify livelihoods in Northern Lao PDR. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR / Ildiko Hamos-Sohlo

Luang Prabang, 22 April, 2016 – The health and diversity of Lao PDR’s natural resources and environment is critical to food security and nutrition for over 80 percent of the population who depend on the natural wealth of the environment to live.

Farmers in Lao PDR depend on agro-biodiversity, the combination of traditional plants, animals and other organisms, for food and income. However, environmental degradation and climate change poses significant risk to agro-biodiversity when natural resources are not well managed, thus increasing vulnerability of farmers to poverty as well as threatening the broader socio-economic development of Lao PDR.

The Government of Lao PDR and United Nations Agencies are working together to address these threats to agro-biodiversity by strengthening institutional capacity to identify and provide incentives and capacity building programmes for farmers, through the Agro-Biodiversity Project.

“This Ago-Biodiversity project aims to ensure that biodiversity, including agro-biodiversity, is maintained, protected and sustainably used, as a key to poverty alleviation and adaptation to climate change,” said Mr. Charles Chauvel, Resident Representative a.i., of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lao PDR, at the project annual review and steering committee meeting today in Luang Prabang.

The Agro-Biodiversity Project was launched in 2011 and is supported by the Global Environment Facility and executed by UNDP with technical expertise from the Food and Agriculture Organization..  The project is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and has focused much of its work in two the northern districts, Phonexay District of Luang Prabang Province and Phoukout District of Xieng Kouang Province.

The benefits of the training delivered through the project to more than 1,000 farmers and their families in these districts has not only resulted in increased incomes, but also provided a better understanding of the value of rich agro-biodiversity and ecosystems.  Graduate farmers from the project’s Farmer Field Schools have also expressed an increase in confidence in their work skills and appreciation for their local environment, promoted by in-country study tours, on-the-job training and farmer-to-farmer exchange of experiences.

Farmers, including a large number of female farmers, are now selling their increased production from diversified farming, such as Melienta leaves and oyster mushrooms in Phonexay District and certified organic rice and wild tea in Phoukhout District to local markets, contributing to economic empowerment and poverty alleviation as well as environmental protection in these areas.

The participation and leadership of local farmers, community leaders and Government officials has been crucial to the successes of the project, which is set to close at the end of 2016. Speaking at today’s meeting, Mr. Chauvel stressed the importance of community participation in ensuring long-term benefits to the environment and farming communities.

“To all participants, your active participation in this meeting will help us to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation and proper collaboration in the project planning and implementation process for better agrobiodiversity conservation, sustainable growth and food security in Lao PDR,” said Mr. Chauvel.

Project stakeholders including the UNDP, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Food and Agriculture Organization, community members, farmers and development partners met in Luang Prabang today to review the progress of project implementation and identify ways to address key challenges. 

For more information, contact:

For English

Dr Margaret Jones Williams, UNDP Environment Unit Chief, margaret.jones.williams@undp.org, +856 2055515876.

Mr Ole Pedersen, Agro-Biodiversity Project Chief Technical Advisor, olesped@gmail.com, +856 2123441606.

For Lao and English

Ms. Chitlatda Keomoungchanh, UNDP Environment Unit Programme Analyst, chitlatda.keomuongchanh@undp.org, +856 2055626162.