Lao PDR

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Lao PDR: Phongsaly handicraft producers receive training for enhanced Alternative Income Generation & Marketing activities

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Vientiane, Lao PDR - 24 March 2010-  Income Generation & Marketing (IGM) has become an increasingly vital component of UNODC's Alternative Development assistance to the Lao PDR.

IGM activity has proven to be highly effective in improving villagers' living conditions and increasing household incomes, particularly in settings where subsistence agriculture is gradually being complemented by an evolving cash economy. In the context of UNODC's Alternative Development and Sustainable Livelihoods approach, IGM activity - coupled with agricultural development - directly benefits former poppy farmers who in the past relied on opium as their single most important cash crop.

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One of the central tenants of IGM is to increase the income generated in former opium-growing communities by building on traditional knowledge, i.e. by turning goods previously made for own-use into marketable, profitable and sustainable income-generating products.

For instance, the former opium-growing communities of Ban Pichergao and Ban Pichermai in Phongsaly have long been engaged in the weaving, hand-sewing and embroidery of simple cotton handicrafts (e.g. traditional bags, shirts and appliqué). However, almost all of these products are made for personal use, mainly because both communities lack the know-how to successfully supply these products for the wider market, especially in terms of quality and volume.

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To address these issues, UNODC's Phongsaly Alternative Development Fund (PADF) project conducted a 3 ½ day training course for ten handicraft producers (all female) from Ban Pichergao and Ban Pichermai, from the 16th to the 19th of March 2010. The primary objective of this training was to increase the income generated in these two PADF target villages by enabling producers to produce quality goods for sale in Muang Khua, the second largest town in Phongsaly province.

 

Several activities were conducted during the training, including:

- Introducing the community to the idea of independently cooperating with private sector partners.
- Conducting basic equipment training for participants (hands-on training was provided on the use of foot-paddle operated sewing machines - which all the participants used for the first time.)

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- Familiarizing producers with the concept of tourist-oriented production and marketing by introducing new products deemed suitable for sale to tourists.

- Designing sample products to be shown to private sector partners.

This basic training will be followed by the establishment of a village handicraft management committee, by trainings on managing business relationships with private enterprise, and by a short study visit to a handicraft shop in Muang Khua, which will be the initial outlet for the products.

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It is hoped that these steps will enable the communities of Ban Pichergao and Ban Pichermai to successfully produce and market quality handicrafts for the consumer market in the medium-term future.

The Phongsaly Alternative Development Fund is a 3-year UNODC Alternative Development and Sustainable Livelihoods project scheduled to be completed this year, and is fully funded by the government of Germany.