On behalf of Director General Vilaysouk Khennavong, Mr. Bounchanh Kombounyasith, Deputy Director General of the Department of Agriculture (DOA), MAF, welcomed and expressed his deep appreciation to all the guests and participants of the workshop. He also encouraged the participants to consider this event as a venue to share their knowledge, and exchange information on farm production, regulations, and market access.
Mr. Pattivong Soulivanh, Country Programme Officer of IFAD-Asia and the Pacific in Lao PDR highlighted the important role agriculture plays in Lao PDR's development, given that about 70% of the country's workers are engaged in the sector. Mr. Soulivanh also emphasized that in order to improve agricultural productivity and growth, there is a need to reduce the sector's vulnerability to climate change, expand private sector investments, and target public investment toward irrigation, credit, and technical support services.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nicholas Minot, Senior Research Fellow of IFPRI-Washington, gave a short background on the project, saying that ATMI-ASEAN aims to explore the relationship between agricultural transformation and market integration with food security, and with the ultimate goal of improving policies and programs to help reduce poverty and food insecurity in the region. Dr. Avinash Kishore, on behalf of IFPRI-South Asia Director Pramod Kumar Joshi, further discussed the project and its deliverables, while Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, Program Head of the Research and Development Department of SEARCA explained the workshop's objectives, expected outputs, and mechanics.
The National Inception Workshop tackled the current situation of Lao PDR's agricultural sector, with focus on the country's agricultural trade and value chains. Dr. Silinthone Sacklokham, Vice Dean and Associate Professor of the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos (NUoL), presented the national perspective of agricultural transformation and market integration in Laotian agriculture. According to Dr. Sacklokham, the country has been undergoing rapid economic growth owing to strong industry and services sectors but at the expense of agriculture. Despite continuously dominating the labor market, agriculture in Lao PDR has been displaying declining share in total national income. Furthermore, there is low productivity owing to the use of different small plots for plantation and limited access of the farmers to farm machineries. Thus, the government implemented its agricultural and rural development strategy toward 2025, which prioritizes food security and sustainable agricultural production and modernization.
Dr. Soulaphone Inthavong, Director of the Plant Quarantine Division of DOA, MAF, provided an overview of the agricultural trade situation in Lao PDR, with focus on market and trading partners. Dr. Takashi Seo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Agricultural Policy Advisor in Lao PDR, on the other hand, presented JICA's cooperation on agricultural value chain in the country. Day 1 ended with the panel discussion on the role of the private sector and farmer's organization and a plenary discussion on capacity building needs of Lao PDR.
On the second day, Dr. Jimmy B. Williams, Project Support Unit Coordinator, provided a short recap of Day 1 and explained the mechanics of the workshop. The participants were divided into two groups, one to discuss agricultural transformation, and the other to tackle market integration, trade and value chain. The two groups presented their respective work plans at the end of the day before the closing program.
Around 45 representatives from IFAD, IFPRI, SEARCA, MAF, and the NUoL, as well as the private sector, farmers' organizations, and other non-government institutions participated in the inception workshop. Dr. Phanpradith Phandara, Director of the Planning and Cooperation Division, DOA-MAF, serves as the project's focal person for Lao PDR.
This inception workshop is part of a series of activities to be conducted under the ATMI-ASEAN project to tackle agricultural transformation and market integration in Southeast Asia (Bernice Anne C. Darvin).