Northern Region Sustainable Livelihoods Through Livestock Development Project: Completion Report
sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: Lao, People’s Democratic Republic
The speed with which VLF (village livelihood fund) loans were absorbed shows that there is a strong unmet demand for credit among livestock producers. Access to finance is a constraint to further expansion of livestock production. Increases in loan ceilings and tenure terms are needed to meet the needs of commercial producers. The issue is whether such finance is best provided through commercial channels at market rates or through ad hoc, heavily subsidized arrangements like the VLF.
While the project design was inclusive of women and ethnic groups (and while it met related targets), the poorest households were harder to reach, despite the attention given to poverty targeting. The poor had less free time to participate in project activities, and were less able to bear the risk of intensified livestock.
Experience from this project and from other countries at a similar development stage shows that the transition from low-input livestock to commercially oriented production is a lengthy process that is seldom achieved in less than 10 years or by any single project. Sustained donor engagement is important.
Attitudinal change is a slow process. The limited education of women and their traditional household roles constrained their participation in LPG (livestock production group) meetings, which included men and women. These factors also caused women, especially those from ethnic groups, to revert to traditional livestock practices.
Language was a barrier to full participation by the relatively isolated ethnic groups, particularly ethnic women. The project’s provision for numeracy and Lao language training was too small to be effective. More effort is needed to conduct training and prepare extension materials in different ethnic languages.
Achieving GAP (gender action plan) targets relied on suitable training of DAFO (district agriculture and forestry office) and DLWU (District Lao Women’s Union) staff in participatory methods, and clear and realistic targets for women’s participation that were easy for project staff to understand and monitor. In contrast, the objectives of the EGDP (ethnic groups development plan) were less clear, and little specific training was given to project staff, which limited some outputs of the EGDP.
A highly centralized management structure is unsuited to projects covering dispersed, remote areas because it limits the flexibility to respond to community demands and needs, and it stifles the initiative and ownership of implementing partners like the DAFOs (district agriculture and forestry offices) and PAFOs (provincial agriculture and forestry offices).