Despite plentiful natural resources like land, forests and water, farmers remain poor because of the widespread lack of agricultural inputs and poor soil fertility management.

Although Laos is doing its best to graduate from the UN’s list of 20 least developed countries, rice yields are very low compared to other countries. This has led to rice shortages in many households in remote areas of Laos.

In a bid to improve the situation, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) invited Laos to host the regional workshop of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)’s grant project ‘Sustainable Management of Crop Based Production Systems for Raising Agriculture Productivity’.

The workshop is taking place in Vientiane from May 16-18, with the participants coming from India, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam.

The four-year IFAD grant programme started in 2012. It aims to improve the well-being of poor rural women and men engaged in rainfed agriculture through sustainable, enhanced productivity and diversified income-generating opportunities.

The grant project and rich experience of ICRISAT can help workshop participants along the path to success by following lessons learnt from prominent scientists through this workshop. They can apply what they learn to develop farming communities and boost productivity.

Rainfed agriculture, which is practised in more than 80 percent of the world’s agricultural areas, currently generates almost 60 percent of the world’s staple food. This type of agriculture will have to play a greater role in ensuring future food security and economic development, particularly in developing countries. It is particularly important in Laos where more than 90 percent of agriculture is rainfed.

The annual workshop brings together partners from the participating countries to discuss how, through the programme, new technologies, improved crops and innovative management practices can help rainfed agricultural communities achieve food security and improved livelihoods.

However, the low and variable productivity of the semi-arid tropics region remains a major concern and a cause of rural poverty.
Of the 1.4 billion people living in such areas, about 40 percent of 560 million are classified as poor and 70 percent of poor people live in rural areas.

Each one percent increase in global agricultural productivity leads to a decrease in the percentage of people living on less than US$1 per day of between 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent.

If rural poverty is to be eliminated, it is imperative to improve the overall productivity and sustainability of rainfed agriculture.

ICRISAT is a non-profit, non-political organisation that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.
Covering 6.5 million square kilometres of land in 55 countries, the semi-arid tropics are home to over 2 billion people, and 644 million of these are the poorest of the poor. The Institute helps poor people living in areas of dry land to move from poverty to prosperity by harnessing markets.

Source: Vientiane Times
May 24, 2013