A leap towards climate resilience in Laos

A leap towards climate resilience in Laos
For Kongsy, raising bullfrogs started as a leap of faith, but it is now a livelihood. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR

Kongsy walks up to a small puddle in a fenced-off area of his garden. Cooing gently, he lures a group of frogs into his hands with small pellets bought at the local market.

The East Asian bullfrog, known by the scientific name Hoplobatrachus rugulosus, is small in size but large in benefit.  Markets in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic are teeming with them, as frog meat is an important protein in the rural Laotian diet. One kilogram of frog meat sells locally for about US$3 and can fetch even higher prices in nearby cities.

Highlights

  • Flood/drought tolerant rice varieties were piloted in an area of 110 hectares in 4 target districts. The average yield reached 3,6 tons per hectare.
  • The project produced 6 training modules for climate change adaptation (with 70 activities to choose from), complete with printed booklets and training methodology.
  • 37,678 people directly benefitted from the project, including 10,220 women.
  • 22 village disaster plans were completed, as well as 15 small water reservoirs, 12 ponds, 2 weir reservoirs and 542 jumbo jars, 576 well rings and 7 stainless tanks.

“I received three bags of 100 frogs each from the project and have been trained in how to raise and cultivate them,” says Kongsy, happy with his new source of income.

That project, Improving the Resilience of the Agricultural Sector to Climate Change (IRAS), is implemented by the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and funded by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility. The project has raised awareness of the need for climate change adaptation and resilience and provided related training and equipment to 35 villages.

“We have tried to make sure that climate change is included in the new five-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan, which directs the activities of the government and determines the course of the country between 2016 and 2020,” says Manfred Staab, UNDP’s former Technical Advisor leading IRAS’ activities. The project has raised awareness on climate change and its impacts, influencing policy makers through capacity building activities and indirect lobbying.

On the village level, the project has introduced crop diversification as a key element of resilience. Villagers were encouraged to use resistant rice species, to improve the production of their main food cropThey were also taught how to grow Napier grass (a versatile species suitable for animal fodder), and simple fish and frog breeding techniques.

Kongsy and fellow farmers of his village Phin Neua weren’t taught these methods by project implementers, but through their own sons and daughters, who participated in a series of trainings organized at Phin Primary and Secondary School. 20 teachers and all 670 students constructed a pond and nursery garden; were taught how to plant a variety of vegetables and herbs; and learned how to use sustainable cultivation techniques, such as using herbs as insecticides, bio-composting and rainwater storage.

The new cultivars are now growing in home gardens across Phin Neua.

“We can sell our vegetables and the surplus rice on the local market now,” says Ms. Nouban, a teacher at Phin School. “With this money, we are now able to support the studies of all our four children.”

The Phin School’s pond is one of the 15 small reservoirs and 12 ponds created during the project. It is teeming with fish, generating enough income to re-invest in the school’s livestock raising and in seedlings for its garden. Rainy seasons here are increasingly interrupted by dry spells, and the pond also functions as a valuable source of irrigation when needed.

IRAS has produced 6 training modules for climate change adaptation (with 70 activities to choose from), complete with printed booklets and training methodology. Now, after the project’s successful closure, local officials are eager to bring the project results to additional provinces and have scheduled implementation in other parts of the country.

In the past, alternating floods and droughts caused Phin’s villagers to fear for their rice harvests. Now, the skills and knowledge they’ve gained are helping them use old practices and new techniques that do not contribute to climate change. For Kongsy, raising bullfrogs started as a leap of faith, but that leap has paid off and moved his family towards a financially and environmentally sustainable future.

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