Northern Uplands Food and Nutrition Security Improvement Project

Northern Uplands Food and Nutrition Security Improvement Project

The key for me is the villagers’ buy-in, and the sustainability that learning new techniques bring to these activities. The villagers are learning how to increase the yield of their vegetables, how to mix and use compost, and how to collect seeds for the new growing season. That means they will have the necessary knowledge and skills to carry on the activities after this project ends.

Khamphone S, NUFNIP District Coordinator Vieng Phoukha, Luang Namtha.

CONTEXT

Lao PDR has some of the highest rates of stunting in Southeast Asia, with approximately 44% of chil-dren under 5 years suffering from chronic malnutrition. In the upland regions of Laos, malnutrition disproportionately affects poor, ethnic minority groups, with prevalence of stunting as high as 61%. The causes of malnutrition are complex, including insufficient access to nutritious food, low diet di-versity, and poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Certain social beliefs and traditions also contribute to inadequate nutritional and feeding practices.

OBJECTIVES

  • Overall objective: Improve livelihoods of poor families in the uplands of Laos
  • Specific objective: Improve food and nutritional security, especially of women and children in target villages in Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha provinces

RESULTS

  • Increased availability of food by application of nutrition sensitive, sustainable and diversified agricultural practices;
  • Increased access to food through diversified income sources and sustainable management of natural resources;
  • Improved utilization of food through improvements in hygiene, sanitation and feeding practices, especially of women of reproductive age and children under five years;
  • Enhanced multi-sectoral collaboration and evidence based policy responses to address women and young child malnutrition in target provinces.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • 316 families received training in fruit tree production and are now supplementing their income and diets with a variety of nutritious fruit including pineapples and mangos.
  • After receiving training, 170 families have diversified their sources of income and diets by successfully raising chicken, goats, pigs, fish, and frogs.
  • 49 families benefited from construction of irrigated community gardens and have access to a new income source and more varied and nutritious food.
  • 71 households benefited from sanitation improvements.
  • 382 children’s growth is being regularly monitored and their mothers have gained knowledge in better feeding, hygiene and sanitation practices

TESTIMONY

New Skills in Agriculture Improve Nutrition, Supplement Incomes, and Increase Confidence in a Brighter Future

“My biggest fear is that my grandsons grow up to be poor like me,” says Mrs. Sengchoi, 60. Her household is one of the poorest in Konthou village of Vieng Pouhka district in Luang Namtha. She has not been spared hardship in recent years. First, her husband died. Then her daughter divorced and moved away, leaving Sengchoi to provide for her now 8 and 17-year-old grandsons alone.

However, things are improving. Last year, the EU funded NUFNIP project came to Konthou and selected Sengchoi as a participant in its food security improvement activities: vegetable gardening and goat raising. The villagers cleared a 0.5 ha area for a community garden and divided it into plots for 24 families. NUFNIP’s technical advisors helped the villagers to build an irrigation system. Then the advisors taught them how to plant seeds, when and how to transplant the seedlings, and how to mix organic compost.

“We are now growing new types of vegetables. In fact, before this I had never eaten green beans, tomatoes, or morning glory! Now my grandsons and I eat these vegetables every day.” The garden also supplements Sengchoi’s income; when vegetables are plentiful, she can sell some, and sometimes the other participating families pay for her to weed their plots too.

Before the NUFNIP project, Sengchoi had reared a couple of goats and a few pigs but the animals had been sickly and did not breed well. Through the training offered by NUFNIP, she and the other villagers learned better animal husbandry practices. “Currently, both of the goats I received are pregnant. Hopefully later we can sell their kids for extra income.“

The NUFNIP project has also had another, more qualitative, impact on Sengchoi’s life. This was the first time she had been invited to participate in agricultural training in the village. Her newly gained knowledge has not only made her activities more productive and successful, it has also boosted her self-esteem, “I feel more confident, I feel I have the skills to provide and take care of my family better.”

She continues, “I hope my younger grandson will stay in school so that he can have more opportunities in life. If we can keep earning a little bit more money by growing vegetables and by raising goats, he can finish school. After that, it is not for me to say what he should do when he grows up. He can decide for himself what to do with his life.”