French agency renews support for sustainable development in northern Laos

Image from the Vientiane Times/ANN

VIENTIANE, Sept 17 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Two new financing agreements for a EUR3 million grant and a EUR6 million grant were signed between Laos and France, to support sustainable development in northern Laos.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Phonevanh Outhavong, and Director of Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in Laos, Julie Gabet-Ouahioune, signed the agreements in the presence of the French Ambassador to Laos, Florence Jeanblanc-Risler.

The first project aims to support the Lao coffee sector towards the production of quality coffee, while the second aims to improve the resilience of communities in the northern uplands through the sustainable management of natural resources.

Northern Laos faces many challenges: it is remote and has to cope with increasingly severe flooding, land degradation caused by deforestation and intensification of agricultural practices, and an earlier and longer dry season.

The region is also particularly poor and dependent on agriculture. The two projects signed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and AFD aim to strengthen the resilience of communities and improve their living standards at different levels.

Firstly, the northern region could become the country’s new coffee region in the next 10 years and be able to account for around 10-15 percent of national production if regular and adequate technical support is provided.

This project specifically aims to develop the quality coffee sector in line with best practices in northern Laos and to strengthen research and teaching capacities in order to contribute to the sustainability of production and the improvement of coffee quality at the national level. It will have a direct impact on the living conditions of farmers.

The second project aims to engage local communities in participatory planning, definition and implementation of sustainable watershed management.

At the end of the project, the targeted communities should be better prepared and less vulnerable to climate change-related risks thanks to their capacity to respond sustainably to threats.

In addition, natural resources will be better protected and shared through increased understanding, commitment and leadership of the people living in these areas.

“These two agreements not only confirm the strong bilateral relationship between the Laos and France, but also symbolise the longstanding cooperation between our two countries in the agriculture and rural development sector,” Ambassador Jeanblanc-Risler said.

Gabet-Ouahioune added “We are delighted with the signature of these two projects which will contribute, each at their own level, to the sustainable development and resilience of the populations of northern Laos.”

“AFD’s involvement in the coffee sector goes back more than 20 years, historically in the Bolaven Plateau, and we are pleased to be able to extend this support to northern Laos, while working on the key issue of watersheds and resilience to climate change.” - Vientiane Times/ANN

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