UNODC success story

Alternative development project brought infrastructure and marketing possibilities to poor farmers in the Lao People's Democratic Republic

In 1998, the Lao ranked third in the world's opium production and had one of the highest opium addiction rates of the world. From 1998 to 2005, cultivation was reduced by 93 per cent and addiction by 68 per cent. Cultivation was officially prohibited by the government in 2005, leaving many farmers without alternative income-generating options and living far below the poverty line.

The Government's National Commission on Drug Control and Supervision and UNODC collaborate within the framework of the country's 2009-2013 National Drug Control Masterplan. Their combined efforts have also been incorporated into the "National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy" of the Government and UNODC have agreed to a long-term commitment that is expected to continue after opium poppy is no longer cultivated.

UNODC has provided numerous services, such as new farming techniques, informal and vocational training programmes, access to new marketing opportunities and credit-saving opportunities. The infrastructure in the village was improved and ways of marketing the products were developed. In addition, opium users in the village were given treatment and rehabilitation support.

Mrs. My Ya Wa - the woman in the picture, with her two children - is part of a Lao family of the Hmong tribe living in province Oudomxay.

Before UNODC's alternative development programme reached the village in 2001, the whole of My Ya Wa's family was involved in cultivating opium poppy. The work was very hard and included long walks to reach remote fields. The family earned less than US$ 150 a year.

Through UNODC's programme, My Ya Wa was one of the farmers in the village to receive assistance in cultivating other kinds of crops. These farmers started cultivating pineapples, peaches and vegetables in fields close to the village. The products could be marketed more easily as a result of the project.

In 2005, the family earned US$ 4,000, allowing the children to attend school. Similar successes have been achieved all over the country, village by village, through the implementation of alternative development progra mmes by UNODC in cooperation with numerous stakeholders.