Videos on Laos market access work
One of the products from the recent SADU wrap-up workshop in Vientiane, Laos was a video highlighting the lessons learned from the final phase of the project. This video — split into two parts — has now made its way to the web and can be viewed in Lao (with English subtitles) at the following links.
What is interesting to note about these videos are the comments from farmers and farmer organizations. When CIAT began work in Laos in 2003 the concept of markets and commercial engagement beyond the village level was foreign to most Lao farmers as well as government officials. Over the last 9 years this situation has changed due principally to increasing economic connectivity in the region in the form of roads as well as the continuing demand for Lao products in Thailand, Vietnam and China.
The importance of a project like SADU in these conditions is two-fold. First, through engagement with specific regions CIAT was able to build a solid evidence base showing that Lao farmers can effectively engage with markets and do so in a profitable fashion. This evidence helps promote the idea of a strong rural economy where small farmers are active participants rather than just rural labor for external investors by showing that upland minority farmers — the least well-off in most of Asia — can compete effectively. Secondly, by including local, provincial and national government officials in the discussion of markets and poverty reduction, CIAT assisted in moving the policy debate beyond simple issues of control and taxation of trade to issues like support of rural entrepreneurship. This work supported the emergence of a Lao government think-tank on economic policy as well as providing evidence for deeper assessments of the economic development model the country is pursuing.