An exchange visit to Laos
Posted Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | Source:
In September 2016, WARECOD organized an exchange trip with the aim of creating an opportunity for upstream and downstream communities of the Mekong River to share their knowledge and experience of Thaibaan research, and to raise concerns regarding the river and food security in the Mekong. With great support from CLICK Laos, members of the Thaibaan group in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam had an opportunity to visit Thaibaan groups in the Champasak Province, south of Lao PDR. Here are some stories written by exchange visitors of the Thaibaan groups in Vietnam.

Ms Tran Thi Hoa:
On 11 Sep 2016, we had an exchange visit to Lao for learning and sharing with Thaibaan research team of Sa Hong village in Champasak province. The team started researching from the beginning of 2015. Research topics focus on water resources and livelihoods. The villagers mainly live on fishing in the Mekong River. Since Don Sahong hydropower dam started, people have faced more difficulties in their lives. Many families lost their houses, their land and their livelihoods. Women are no longer employed, except staying home and raising poultry in their gardens. Previously, women were employed for selecting fishes, but now there is no work for them. This village has over 70 households. They have large area of land but not many people. They lack of agricultural machinery tools. Their rice field are not flat. They plant rice crop one time/year. However, they use very little fertilizers and chemical substances. They also grow vegetables with no chemical spraying. The health of people is relatively good and no one is having cancer. In summary, after the trip, I have learned a lot and will share with other women in my village, especially about environmental protection and public health.

Mr. Le Hoang Quan: The exchange visit to Laos is a meaningful trip. I learned many useful things about the livelihoods of the ethnic minority people of Sa Hong village in Laos. The Sa Hong village leader said the village had only 70 households with more than 200 people. Livelihoods of the local people mainly depend on rice cultivation, poultry raising and fishing in the Mekong river. The village leader was so worried that Don Sahong hydropower dams would affect fishery resources. Local villagers would probably encounter more difficulties to maintain their livelihoods. In my opinion, Laotian government should have a policy to provide agricultural machineries and invest in irrigation to help local people so they will be able to grow double rice crops per year and support economic development. In addition, local people need to receive support in fishing tools and should be encouraged to grow more fruit trees because they still have a large area of idle land left.

Mr. Lam Quoc Minh: The exchange visit to learn from local knowledge research group of Sahong village, Champasak province, Laos is very emotional and useful. The local knowledge research group studied freshwater fisheries in the Mekong River. Local people were very worried about the decline of fishery resources in the Mekong River caused by the construction of hydropower dams. We were also worried that the hydropower dams would affect Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Laotian people are poor and lack of infrastructures and irrigation systems. They mainly live on rice cultivation, fishing and poultry raising. They have large area of land but do not use it effectively. During the exchange visit, local people were very friendly and we sang many folk songs together and danced Laos traditional dance. After the exchange visit, I have learned a lot about climate, water resources and livelihoods. We would like to say thanks to friendly Laos fellows and the Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD) for organizing the trip.

Mr. Phan Quoc Dzung: I am Phan Quoc Dzung, a member of the local knowledge research group of Thoi Binh A hamlet, Thoi Thanh commune, Thoi Lai District, Can Tho City. During 11-13th Sep 2016, we had an exchange visit in Laos. We visited Khong village, Muong Khong district, Champasac province. When we arrived, local people warmly welcomed us and I had many unforgettable memories. The research group said that they had studied 4 research topics: Fishing; Raising livestock and poultry; Growing rice; and Services. In terms of fishing topic, the community uses a variety of fishing gears like in Vietnam but they do not use electric fishing tools or other small mesh nets. In terms of livestock husbandry, local people don’t have centralized livestock raising models. They only raise livestock and poultry in household scale, using homemade foods. Regarding rice cultivation, they only do single rice crop per year in the rainy season without using chemical pesticides. So, environmental pollution is not a problem and local people have clean food to eat. However, I think that they have some constraints in economic development because they have no good livestock and poultry raising models and they have only single rice crop/year. There are no high quality rice varieties and they are lack of science and technology support for rice cultivation. Above all, I have learned many good things from this trip. I will discuss with my research team and share with other people in my village. I will also keenly tell other people to keep environment clean; not to throw rubbish into canals, limit the use of pesticides, and avoid using electric fishing tools. I look forward to joining other useful programs like this exchange visit.

Mr. Huynh Ky Luu: After the exchange visit to Lao, I have gained useful knowledge for myself. We were warmly welcomed by Champasak province agencies and from local communities. Local communities were very open in sharing experiences. We have learned that the construction of the mainstream dams would affect local people’s livelihoods. Many households lost farming land and houses. We are also concerned that the construction of hydropower dams would affect Vietnam, especially in terms of reduction in sediment, water shortage during the dry season, and increase of salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta. The construction of the hydropower dams will also reduce fishery resources. The exchange visit ended with many meaningful experiences. We shared and learned from each other. I hope the Laotian Government will somehow stop the construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong River so that the water resources in the Mekong Delta will be used in a sustainable manner.

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