“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.”