Agriculture for nutrition (AFN II)

Beekeepers in Xieng Khuang, Northern Laos. Photo: Albrecht Ehrensperger

The economy of Laos has undergone major transformations in the last two decades, driven by strong growth and large investments in natural resources (e.g. hydropower, mining, tree plantations, agriculture) as well as infrastructure. Nevertheless, agriculture remains critical to the rural economy, employing more than 60% of the workforce (64% for women) here. The majority of agricultural workers are self-employed in small-scale, primarily subsistence-oriented family farming.

Farmers and rural households in the remote uplands of Laos have only marginally benefitted from the recent economic growth and are disproportionally affected by food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty. These challenges have been further exacerbated since 2020, as result of the combined effects of COVID-19 and the impacts the war in Ukraine on global supply chains.

Building on the success and lessons learned during its first phase, the second phase of the project “Agriculture for nutrition” (AFN II) invests in nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions and adopts an inclusive, gender-transformative approach.

AFN II project objectives

The project aims at enabling 28,000 vulnerable households living in 500 villages in six provinces to increase their income by 20% by 2030 as well to improve their food and nutrition security. AFN II features three components:

1) Community-driven agriculture and nutrition interventions promoting the use of natural resources,

2) Business partnerships and market access improvement, and

3) an enabling environment and partnerships.

A seller at a market in Nong Khiaw, Luang Prabang Province, Laos. Photo: Albrecht Ehrensperger

The role of CDE: Local food sources and wild foods management

Despite their high nutritional and economic potential, wild foods are often not fully recognized in agricultural and rural development strategies in Laos. In collaboration with CDE, partners at the Lao National Agriculture and Forest Research Institute (NAFRI) will address this issue in the frame of the first component of the AFN II project. Both partners will focus on four complementary approaches:

  1. To generate, analyse, and widely disseminate knowledge on wild foods through the agrobiodiversity platform Pha Khao Lao, which will be adapted to include data and knowledge on the nutritional value of wild foods and aquatic species.
  1. To support provincial and district authorities in integrating wild foods and aquatic species into agricultural extension programmes. This will be achieved through tailored capacity building, including the use of the Pha Khao Lao platform in extension services, and implementing strategies in pilot villages.
  1. To support local communities in formulating and implementing knowledge-based investment plans and agreeing on local bylaws for sustainable use of wild foods and aquatic species in village territories. Small grants will be used to fund the investment plans.
  1. To assess the utilization and conservation of wild foods and the impact of the project on both by conducting baseline, midterm, and final evaluations on the role of wild foods in diets, their economic importance for local communities, various issues of conservation of wild species, and changes in the implementation of conservation practices by villagers.

Knowledge and experience generated through these activities will contribute to multisectoral planning by ensuring that local food sources and wild food species are accounted for in the nutrition planning process at village and district levels.