Social and Economic Rehabilitation of Former Opium Poppy Growing Communities (LAO/I28) - Oudomxay Post Opium Surpass Poverty (PSP) on-going



The joint UNODC/UNIDO project of "social and economic rehabilitation of the former opium - poppy growing farmers - Alternative livelihood development" is one of the responses of the Lao government to the crucial development issues facing the country at present.  The National name for the joint project is Post Opium Surpass Poverty, P S P, project, which is in the heart of northern Laos, the province of Oudomxay.

The projects objectives are streamlined with the government's National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy, NGPES, which is  an inclusive  frame work for  growth and development with a special dual focus  on promoting sustainable  growth and alleviate poverty with an overall objective to free the country from the status of a least developed country bu 2020.

Illicit opium production is linked with organised crime, which may result in undermining national security, stability and peace, elements that are at the core of poverty eradication and providing food security.  In order to secure these development preconditions, the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, UNTFHS, is financing the project in order to promote drug reduction and elevate minimum living standards across target communities.

Although The Lao PDR is close to reaching its goal of completely eliminating opium, there is a concern about the sustainability of the eradication and its impact on former opium growing communities.  To address this situation, UNODC and the Lao Government have outlined  a new national programme strategy for the post-opium scenario entitled "National Drug Control Masterplan (2009-2013)".  The aim is to integrate the latter with the NGPEG, which has been integrated withe Millennium Development Goals (MDG), that will be reached when the NGPES is realised.

Provision of alternative livelihoods to match the opium elimination and the promotion of sustainable industrial development as a way of alleviating poverty are the main objectives of the UNODC/UNIDO co-operation with the Lao Government.  While UNODC continues to contribute to a drug-free environment and  to provide  improved living conditions for the targeted  communities by providing socio-economic development  and viable, legal alternatives to opium, UNIDO provides technical assistance in order to enhance productive activities and build trade capacity at village and provincial level.  In that sense, the socio-economic constraints due to location, topography and remoteness of many of the target villages are effectively tackled on by combining the technical expertise and comparative advantages of both organisations to assist the Lao Government in creating a better life for the Lao people.

Project Objectives:

The P S P project has as its target areas three districts in Oudomxay:  Xay, La and Houn, with altogether 20 target villages assigned by the provincial Government.  The project has a dual focus in drug demand reduction and in alternative livelihood creation.

For drug demand reduction:

  • Opium elimination: Create a sustainable human environment that will enable illicit opium production to remain eliminated with amelioration of living conditions of the communities involved.
  • Treatment and support: Ensure coping strategies adopted by former opium farmers are consistent with proper environmental resource management practices; provide treatment to recovering addicts and prevent relapse.
  • Preventive measures : Ensure that other drugs such as Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) are prevented from taking the place of Opium as a major health and social problem; prevent cross border and transit trafficking of illicit substances.

For alternative livelihoods creation:

  • Income generation : To increase the per capita income in a sustainable manner and to enhance the rural households' capacity to generate income.
  • Sustainability of development : To strengthen the role of the private sector in macroeconomic growth and the generation of employment opportunities.
  • Productivity and Marketing Centre :To set up a focal point linking Village Productivity Groups and the Private Sector.
  • Employment creation : To renew the links between formal/non-formal education and employment opportunities and to improve them by providing tailored non-formal vocational trainings to the communities with a special attention to gender equality.
  • Entrepreneurship : To support the small scale domestic business in their start-up and to foster an enabling framework for the medium sized enterprises in the northern province.
  • Imporve natural resource use and agricultural practices : To enhance the capacity of the rural communities wholly or partially dependent on forests and non-timber forest products for their living and for small-scale cash income.

Project Achievements:

  • 29 participants from 12 companies have participated in a traders meeting and new enterprise creation workshops
  • 30 village productivity groups, in 16 target villages, participating actively in skills training and community development workshops
  • 558 have acquired new skills in agro-processing
  • 37 technical trainings involving 445 members of Village Productivity Groups
  • 5 soft skills trainings such as business skills and entrepreneurship improvement training for village Productivity Groups and local traders
  • provision of material, tools and processing equipment such as planting machines, procured and handed over to the VPGs
  • 2 nursery specialists hired to improve agricultural productivity and guarantee sustainability of natural resources
  • Marketing opportunities identified ans 18 contracts prepared for VPGs
  • Productivity and marketing Centre, PMC, set up, with inauguration in Spring 2009
  • 20 Village development Committees established
  • 14 Village Savings and Credit Funds, VSCFs, established, and benefiting 831 households.
  • 145 drug addicts treated and reintegrated within the communities
  • 5120 people attended the drug awareness trainings conducted at province, district and village levels
  • 3 irrigation schemes for 32 families and supplying water to 21.52 hectares of paddy field
  • Provision of 3 rice banks, 2 village drug revolving funds and micro-credit funds for 14 target villages
  • Land use planning and land allocation in 7 villages benefiting 720 families
  • 6 villages provided with a completely constructed water supply system benefiting 3770 people trained by water user committees
  • Training in primary health care conducted in 9 villages
  • 1986 impregnated mosquito nets distributed in 20 villages
  • 1 market shelter for 4 villages constructed

Further Objectives:

  • To enhance the coverage and operation of the social services
  • To improve or construct more infrastructure
  • To reverse  the trend of low percentage of women participating in all soci-economic activities
  • To combat the scarce  employment  opportunities worsening further in the coming years due to the rapid population growth by supporting the creation of small scale businesses
  • To reverse the tendency of geographic isolation resulting in economic marginalisation, especially in remote  areas
  • To enhance food security by tackeling the issues of the shortening  of the fallow period having  a negative impact on soil fertility, yields, and food production in upland areas
  • To sustain the income generation activities  of the Village  Productivity Groups, VPGs, and the established Productivity and Marketing Centre
  • To improve market access of VPG products
  • To prevent the spread of Amphetamine Type Stimulants, ATS, and minimize the risk of opium demand being replaced with ATS demand
  • To address the gender inequality issues to avoid them from hampering the potential of women participating in income generation activities
  • TO develop a sustainable model for the use of the declining forest resources, so as not to reduce the opportunity for generating income from them