The Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) project is supporting farmer organisations as a means for improving collective action and the bargaining power of smallholder to enable them to engage in commercial markets. Secondary beneficiaries of the project are government organisations, private sectors, and civil society organisations who provide services to smallholder farmers.
The LURAS project is funded by SDC and implemented by Helvetas (lead implementer), the Department of Agriculture Extension and Cooperatives (DAEC) and SNV. LURAS-II will continue until end 2020, is a follow-up to LURAS-I that ran between 2015 and 2017.
Lao PDR is a nation of smallholder farmers, with over 75% of the workforce employed in the agriculture sector. However, the development of future rural advisory services faces a number of challenges, including a lack of government funding, inadequate human resources, the outflow of young people from rural areas, the exclusion of vulnerable groups (such as women and ethnic minority groups), weak market regulation, and expansion of crops and technologies that have negative impacts on the environment.
The Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) project is establishing professional and effective extension services that respond to farmers’ needs and support them to improve productivity, their own food security and effectively engage in growing markets, with the aim to benefit smallholder upland farmers, both men and women, and their farmer organisations. Project interventions include supporting proposals from state and non-state actors who will deliver services to small upland farmers, including a small grant mechanism. The project also includes capacity building activities, including training and piloting of new approaches to improve performance in service delivery. The goals of the continuing project are:
- Improve productivity of smallholder farmers and increase their income through advisory services that meet their requirements and choice;
- Support independent farmers’ organisations to provide demand-oriented services to facilitate transparent and fair market engagement of their members;
- Development of demand driven and gender inclusive advisory services to be delivered by state and private actors.
- Promote good value chain governance that is conducive for the ntegration of smallholder farmers into professional value chains;
During the second phase of the project additional focus will be put on improvements in certification, processing of agricultural products and connecting farmers to markets. The project will also make additional efforts to create youth employment opportunities.
As a result of the first phase of the project, 4,700 farmers increased their productivity by more than 10%, improving the lives of more than 20,000 people overall.