Laos was the third-largest illicit opium poppy producer in the world. The commitment to eradication efforts of the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic has helped the country to reduce opium poppy cultivation to marginal levels. This is an enormous success considering that as recently as 1998, the country was the third-largest illicit opium poppy producer in the world and had one of the highest opium addiction rates.

In 2005, it became illegal to cultivate opium poppy in the country, leaving many farmers without the means to make a living. UNODC has worked closely with the Government to ensure the sustainability and continuation of alternative development projects in order to promote food security, manage the fragile environment and provide livelihood opportunities to small-scale farmers to prevent the resurgence of opium poppy cultivation.

AD program in Lao PDR supports the Government's five-year (2011-2015) National Social Economic Development Plans (NSEDP) by working together with line agencies on opium replacement program and drug awareness raising campaigns at the central, provincial, district and village levels. By doing so, line agency counterparts gained insight on international AD best practices (food security, and drug demand reduction).

   
   

Promoting gender equality

Women have greatly benefited from the move away from opium poppy cultivation, as they used to perform most of the labour-intensive duties associated with that cultivation. Today, many of them are involved in growing rice and maize, and in rearing livestock. In addition, more girls are enrolled in school and it has been reported that there has been a decrease in domestic abuse cases. This is the result of an overarching UNODC strategy to include gender mainstreaming as a main component in all of its projects.

     
   
 

Increasing food security and promoting licit crop production and small farmer enterprise development in Houaphan province

The project focuses on improving food security by providing alternative development support to former opium poppy growing communities in 35 villages of Xamtai District, Houaphan Province. This will be achieved through the development of licit and sustainable alternative livelihood practices that contribute to food security. The project alleviates the negative impacts of falling commodity prices, increased cost of living and limited livelihood opportunities.

Alternative livelihood practices introduce new technology and improve skills to increase productivity and food security, provide access to micro credit as well as access to basic infrastructure. Farmer associations and production groups are promoted to ensure sustainability.

The project emphasizes a community centred, holistic rural development approach to strengthen local authorities to provide better services, thus supporting communities to sustain opium elimination, tackle the threats from other drugs and also reduce the risk of vulnerable communities from being targeted by transnational organised criminal networks.

   
   

Phongsaly alternative development fund

This project aims to assist the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in eliminating opium poppy cultivation and in reducing poverty among approximately 10,000 persons (1,600 households) in 30 villages in the districts of Koua and May in Phongsaly province by providing community-based participatory alternative development, drug demand reduction, law enforcement and civic awareness programmes to the target communities. The activities implemented include the creation of an alternative development savings and credit fund, capacity-building for Government staff and efforts to improve the social and economic conditions of former opium poppy farmers.

   
   

Regional project in South-East Asia: Increasing food security and promoting licit crop production and small-farmer development enterprise development in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar.

The project's aim is to address the pressing needs related to the current opium scenario, enabling farmers to achieve food security and be self-reliant without having to cultivate opium poppy in order to generate an income. Activities focus specifically on alleviating poverty by improving food security levels in selected communities in the Lao province of Oudomxay and the Pekhon township in Myanmar's Southern Shan State. The project's main strategy is to assist small farmers to join the mainstream of economic and business development by implementing interventions that increase agricultural productivity. Small-farmer associations and cooperatives will be strengthened. Major target groups are communities that are currently active in the cultivation of opium poppy and communities that cultivated opium poppy in the past and suffer from food deficiency.