Rural Family Finds Way Out of Poverty

Slash and burn cultivation was not the right way for Mr Somsack Inthajack’s family to make a living, so the family decided to change direction and grow sugarcane instead.

Many remote families still live in poor conditions, so they must work extra hard to change their living standards for the better, often requiring a fundamental shift in their agricultural practises through the adoption of single cash crop cultivation. For Mr Somsack’s family in Na village, Chomphet district, Luang Prabang province, the crop of choice is sugarcane.

The family ditched their old practise because district officials disseminated policy of from government and provided support for farmers who willingly would make the switch away from traditional agricultural methods in favour of more modern ones.Mr Somsack’s family worked in slash and burn cultivation for many years but made very little income from the practise. Their choice to settle down and grow sugarcane has made their family a shining example of successful poverty reduction policies in their home village of Na.

Initially, they grew only half a hectare but the crop quickly expanded into two hectares and with the income they obtained from the increased output, the family bought machines to assist in planting and harvesting the crops. The introduction of modern machinery into the farming process meant that their yield increased dramatically.

In the fiscal year 2015-2016, his family earned 47 million kip for the sale of sugarcane. By Lao farming standards, this is a good income.

In addition to the sugarcane, his family expanded their crops to include rice cultivation and poultry rearing to add an addition 28 m illion kip per year to the family’s overall yearly income.

He said with his family’s extensive skillset from their slash and burn days, making the switch to a sedentary lifestyle that focuses on the cultivation of one cash crop was not as difficult as they had previously thought.

Mr Somsack added that other villagers in Na village can follow the example of his family if they have land and are willing to make the switch.

In the future, Mr Somsack will add on more hectares of sugarcane and rear different kinds of animals for sale in the district market to earn more income for his family.

He said that if everyone in Na village can do the same as his family, the village will be well on its way to obtaining a sustainable economy that lifts everyone out of poverty.

Provincial officials are using success stories like that of the Mr Somsack’s family to persuade other farming families in remote areas to gr ow more crops and raise more animal s.

Updated farming methods are also essential for rural families to earn a living. People are being encouraged to use modern equipment, study innovative cultivation techniques and to borrow money from banks from specially created funds for rural people to expand their farming activities.

According to a previous report, Luang Prabang province has 169 poor villages, equating to 22 percent of the total number of villages in the province. The number of poor families has dropped to 4,134, comprising 5 percent of the total farming population.

Vientiane Times, December 10, 2016. LAO PDR