In Lao PDR, residents highly depend on agriculture for their daily lives. 50% of all households are mainly or partly subsistence farmers. As a result, their livelihoods rely on factors beyond their control: the quality of their crops, the health of their livestock, access to markets, external shocks, and societal and environmental trends. The geographic location of Laos, at the confluence of several major rivers, increases the population's vulnerability to environmental changes. Frequent natural disasters put strong pressure on the economic and social development, particularly in terms of health, agriculture, education, and infrastructure.
For optimal project implementation, Caritas Luxembourg has a regional office with more than 30 employees, which is managed by a Lao Head of Mission, Mr Khamsing Namsavanh. One of the employees of Caritas Luxembourg in Laos is Sophie, who has been living and working there since 2019.
The population we are supporting with our projects often live in remote locations. It can take us up to 3 hours of dirty roads to reach the villages from the district capital, and some cannot be accessed in the rainy season. People in these villages often suffer from a limited access to basic services, such as clean water, toilets, school or health care. Many of Caritas beneficiaries are from Hmong ethnic, a population which encounter higher poverty and malnutrition rates. We work together with the local government and civil society organizations to improve their access to basic services and support community development’.
In Laos, the poverty rate reaches 23% of the population and 33% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Caritas Luxembourg's main objective in Laos is to contribute to poverty reduction. Its action supports social and economic development to ensure the improvement of the living standards of the local populations. Activities focus on livelihood strengthening, sustainable community development, disaster risk reduction and improved health and nutrition. Caritas Luxembourg, with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, is committed to improve the villagers’ living conditions and empower them to gain control over their lives.
In this regard, one of the main projects is devoted to the diversification of agricultural production. This is achieved through the development of cow raising activities, with a focus on improved husbandry practices and animal health. Access to veterinary services is also enhanced with the set-up of village veterinarians. In addition, Caritas supports rice and vegetables organic production, as well as the expansion of irrigation systems for increased food security. Women also receive micro-credits to develop their weaving or livestock production, which allows them to raise their household income. This approach for livelihood diversification is supported by participatory land-use mapping and forest protection, as well as support to local good governance.
Improved nutrition is also at the heart of Caritas Luxembourg activities in Laos, with actions at both community and policy levels. Capacities of nutrition actors are raised for nutrition planning and interventions. With regard to sanitation, latrines are built and health centers are maintained (training of employees, provision of equipment). Hygiene awareness among the population is also reinforced by extensive health campaigns. The installation of water supply systems provides clean water and reduces diseases caused by dirty water.
In addition, to cope with flooding, drainage channels are built and riverbanks are raised. Key infrastructures such as bridges and irrigation schemes are repaired or constructed for improved resilience of communities. Early warning systems are set-up in the villages to alarm communities on upcoming disasters, so they can get to safety and take their essential belongings with them.
During her daily work on site, Sophie is able to observe the changes:
When I did my first field mission in Mok district, in November 2019, I was impressed by the impact of the Caritas projects on the development of the district, which is particularly poor and remote. We work with local authorities through a holistic approach and aim to address the different vulnerabilities of the local communities there: our projects supported the construction of water systems, a bridge and a health centre, strengthened village planning for development, set-up village development funds, supported land-use planning and brought capacity building to district authorities. By implementing many activities and projects in the same location, we could develop a trustful cooperation with the communities and the local government of the district. The last time I returned to Mok and discussed with beneficiaries, I observed rapid improvements in the living standards of the communities, as people talked about increased revenues, more comfortable houses, and seemed to have more confidence in the future.”
People who wish to support Caritas projects in Laos - and more broadly all the activities of Caritas Luxembourg - can do so by making a donation by transfer to the account (CCPL) IBAN LU34 1111 0000 2020 0000 or directly below.