Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Land issues under scrutiny at working group meeting

Vientiane Times, 1 Oct 2013

Satisfactory land allocation and consistency between land policy and development practice would facilitate agricultural development and advance poverty reduction, according to experts.

The comment was made at a meeting of the Sector Working Group on Agriculture and Rural Development held in Vientiane yesterday.

“Policy making and development practice should be coordinated so that they facilitate development and help with poverty eradication,” Lao Biodiversity Association President Houmphanh Rattanavong said.

Mr Houmphanh, who is a former Director of the Cultural Research Institute, expressed his concern saying that in his view the current policy and technical development were not in harmony.

“Before we can eradicate poverty we should analyse our social fundamentals but, regardless of this, we will face difficulties.”

He said he doubted whether poverty would be eradicated by 2015 or 2020, adding that some people were sliding deeper into poverty because they were losing land to concession holders.

In his view, the problem was not being solved systematically. He recommended that a study and analysis of people’s lifestyles be carried out before the policy is finalised.

“We cannot change the lifestyle of mountain people immediately,” Mr Houmphanh said.

He reminded the gathering of the problems that can follow the granting of a land concession, such as chemical contamination, pollution and drought.

The practice of conservation agriculture was discussed and the Food and Nutrition Security Action Plan was updated.

Mr Houmphanh said he wanted the strategy plan to be compatible with government policy.

He was pleased that the issue was raised for discussion, while expressing his confidence in technical experts’ capability.

A representative from a civil society group, Ms Khankham Duangsilath, said she wanted the regulations to be revised, in particular those preventing agricultural land from being given over to other uses.

“If we do not have stricter laws in this regard, the land available for farming will be reduced. Regulations and a sound framework will give us confidence in our work,” she said.

She said she understood that land allocation was a government priority, but there were shortcomings in the system and she wanted all sectors to cooperate on the issue.

The meeting is part of preparations for the upcoming round table meeting which will take place in Vientiane on November 19.

A representative from an international non-government organisation suggested that more attention be given to land issues as in her view the Lao people are heavily reliant on natural resources, land and forests, for their daily subsistence and food security.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Phouangparisack Pravongviengkham, French Ambassador to Laos, Mr Yves Carmona, and International Fund for Agricultural Development Country Programme Manager, Ms Stefania Dina, co-chaired the meeting.

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