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Project seeks to end opium dependency.

Project seeks to end opium dependency

Article from Vientiane Times
Author: Khonesavanh Latsaphao
Published: 05/05/2011
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

Some people in Xamtay district, Huaphan province, are again growing opium poppies, according to Lao-UNODC, EU Alternative Development Project staff on Wednesday.

"About 125 hectares in the district are used for illicit opium poppy cultivation," a member of the project's survey team, Mr Phontha Vilaykham, said at the project's opening ceremony in the province on May 1. Attending the opening of the project were representatives of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Asia Development Bank (ADB), and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

A reported 276 families in 12 villages of Xamtay district are currently growing opium poppies, he said, adding that about 422 people are addicted to opium.

The project targets people in 36 villages, including the 12 villages engaged in opium poppy cultivation. The project's total budget is about 2.2 million euros for operation from 2011-2014, funded by the EU and UNODC.

Xamtay is one of the 47 poorest districts in Laos, and the project emphasises a community-centred, holistic rural development approach.

Project activities will aim to improve the socio-economic situation in the target villages, and at the same time enable sustainable opium elimination and overcome the threats posed by other drugs.

It will reduce the risk of these vulnerable communities being targeted by transnational criminals to grow opium poppies and of local residents becoming drug mules or victims of human trafficking.

The project will also contribute to the aim of the government to relieve Laos of its least developed country status and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by addressing extreme poverty and hunger.

In addition, it will contribute to achieving the aims of the Vientiane Declaration on Aid Effectiveness through the development and implementation of sustainable alternative livelihood activities.

These activities will focus on introducing new and appropriate technologies, improving skills to increase Project seeks to end opium dependency continued page 3 agricultural productivity and improve food security, and providing access to micro credit as well as basic infrastructure. Villagers will be encouraged to contribute to the development of small farmer enterprises.

The project will help to alleviate the negative impacts of the global economic crisis resulting from falling commodity prices, increased costs of agricultural inputs, overall increased cost of living and limited livelihood opportunities.

The day after the opening ceremony, a delegation from the LCDC, EU, UNDP, ADB and UNODC visited Phoulae village, one of the target villages in the project.

About 17 people in the village are now addicted to opium, village head Mr Phetsa Phaphithong told the delegation.  More than 50 people came to talk with the delegation in the village meeting room, but this group did not include the opium addicts.

"We've come here to help you improve the living conditions in your village," Vice Chairman of the LCDC Mr Kou Chansina said at the meeting. "We don't want to catch anybody so don't be afraid of us." He said the project hopes to put an end to both villagers' illicit opium poppy cultivation and smoking of opium, which is very harmful. "We will use educational materials about the dangers of opium use to make people understand and avoid becoming addicts," Mr Kou explained.

UNODC, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, supported alternative development efforts in Huaphan province from 2001-2006 through village-based development components as part of the ADB Shifting Cultivation Stabilisation Pilot Project, and from 2007-10 through the alternative development programme.

Project delegation visits locals in the target village Phoulae after the project's opening celemony

Project delegation visits locals in the target village Phoulae after the project's opening celemony