The right to food is the fundamental right to feed oneself in dignity and to have access to adequate food at all times, anywhere.
Food must be available, in sufficient quantities for the entire population (it underlies sufficient production capacities). Also, there must be an equitable distribution and fair access to food, meaning everybody can easily get staple food, even the poorest.
The food security is achieved when every household, every individual alone or in a community with others has the necessary means to access food - to produce sufficient and nutritious food by oneself or - the means for its procurement (Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to food). So accessing food is a matter of both physical access and economic access .
Many individuals are still undernourished in Lao PDR. The undernourished are at greatest risk of ill health and premature death, most of them living in poor conditions in remote rural areas. Within rural communities, women and young children are highly vulnerable: they are the most at risk.
In 2006, 41% of children under the age of 5 were suffering from chronic malnutrition and 14,5% of women of reproductive age (from 15 to 49 years old) had chronic energy deficiency (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 3, UNICEF), making Laos the 3rd country of South-east Asia most affected by hunger and chronic malnutrition.
Lao government still struggles to eliminate poverty within the country and improve the state of food security all through the territory.
Between 2002 and 2007, there has been real progress : in 5 years the poverty rate diminished by 6% in rural areas and by 3% in urban areas (according to the latest national report). Nevertheless, this progress remains too slow in mountainous areas, poorly accessible, whereas rural lowland areas and medium-high fields have known a quick growth and fast development.
Therefore, the right to food and the state of food security are far from being guaranteed at national level.
Kham District is located in the province of Xiengkhouang. It is one of the poorest districts of the country, and belongs to the 47 districts reported as « high priority areas » by the government. Kham district is targeted by the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) and the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP).
90% of the population of Xiengkhouang belongs to ethnic minorities’ groups, mainly Hmong and Khmu. The economics of the province is based on agriculture and people live from rice/corn growing, breeding, forest resources and handicraft. Only a small small part of the incomes are being generated by service activities.
The integration of ethnic minorities policy and relocation plans have largely limited the access to land and natural resources and the livelihoods of many ethnic groups have substantially diminished with the interdiction of slash-and-burn practices.
Moreover, many environmental problems have arised in Xienghkouang with the expansion of maize crop and the massive use of phyto sanitary products. Paraquat has been prohibited in Lao pdr but is still used by farmers who can find on the market. Chemical pesticides such as paraquat are proven to be highly dangerous for health, contaminating soil & water.
CCL decided to support the rural communities of Kham district in partnership with local authorities in order to ensure the right to food within the province & propose an alternative way to chemicals.
In Xiengkhouang, many people are regularly facing lean periods. A lean period is the seasonal period before the next harvest when people run out of rice and water. The lean period generally lasts from 1 month to 6 months. The depletion of rice stocks and the poor diet diversification often lead to malnutrition cases within the villages. Most of the time, there are poor hygiene conditions (lack of water sanitation, drinking water & latrines) and the knowledge about health & nutrition issues is clearly missing.
What's more ethnic minorities are not aware of their rights. therefore, they cannot stand up for their rights to assert them. As a result, their political representation is nearly inexistent, especially at grass root level. Besides, civil society organizations who advocate for ethnic minorities' rights are banned - this interdiction being established by decree of the Prime Minister and omen are insufficiently represented within political organizations. the role of the women in the society is not fully recognized despite the huge amount of time they spend day-to-day in farming and house work.
In the end, local authorities also lack knowledge, competence and budget to implement suitable policies so that ethnic minorities can effectively realize their right to food. Therefore CCL has adopted a right-based development approach to support the ethnic groups of Xienghkhouang province, based on the fundamental right to food.
Xiengkhouang, the action of CCL aims to promote the right to food and foster the democratization process in Lao PDR through the strengthening of civil society and the empowerment of rural communities. this action is also promoting women rights through the enhancement of women's role within their community.
The final objective of the Right to food of ethnic minority groups project is to enable these communities establish their own development strategy and gain political visibility. To do so, a dialogue must be initiated between the local population and governmental agencies at all level (local, regional, national).
CCL Project in Xiengkhouang is funded by the European Commission to the tune of 300 000 euro. The project takes place in 30 villages of Kham District, beneficiating to the 15 000 inhabitants of target villages. Through the multiplier effect, this action also beneficiates to the whole population within the province.
CCL leads this project in partnership with Saeda (Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Development Association). CCL management team is based in Vientiane and liaises with 5 technicians of governmental district agencies.
Saeda is the privileged partner of CCL on this project. This local non profit association (NPA) has been working in Xiengkhouang for eight years now. It benefits from a sound knowledge of the local context and a strong experience of development projects. As a key operating partner, Saeda is leading surveys and implanting activities on the field.
The action of CCL in Xiengkhouang unfold as follow:
1) The first action focus on training local NPAs (non profit associations) on projects management cycle, reinforcing their technical competencies & their knowledge about human rights. This action enables local NPAs to ensure the right to food and women rights at the provincial level.
2) the second part of the action focuses on the consolidation of Lao civil society. CCL support CSOs (civil society organizations) the emergence of Farmers organizations, helping them structure their activities and reinforce their capacity for action.
This work is managed in partnership with Saeda which operates on the field in partnership with local authorities & rural development experts.
CCL and Saeda provide technical assistance and management support to numerous farmers Through training sessions.
The Farmer-to-Farmer extension process enables groups of farmers to spread the knowledge and innovative techniques such as sustainable rice intensification, organic agriculture techniques and income-generation activities for women (weaving).
3) The third action point aims to strengthen the local network at the provincial level, develop the FOs network and bring all the CSOs involved in rural development together to share ideas, case studies and feedback from the field in order to improve the outputs of the project activities.
Women from Ban Fai during a training session on contracts negotiation.
Many farmers of Kham have to deal and make agreement with companies for cash crop commercialization such as corn production.
The objective of these training is to strengthen knowledge and skills of farmers in order fro them to be able to negotiate better prices and terms contract with both local and foreign investors.
Mr Khampet, model farmer and trainer of Sustainable rice intensificaton techniques (SRI). SAEDA, partner of CCL, has trained farmers of Kham district on SRI and agroecological techniques to help farmers increase their annual yield of rice.
The SRI model enabled farmers to increase their yields around 30% by using organic fertilizer and better management of water.
CCL supports upland ethnic communities of Kham district to increase food production for consumption
Portrait. Khmu People, Houayphat village
CCL supports weaving activities to help women improve their livelihoods
Woman with her spinning wheel