VIENNA, 13 November 2006 (UNODC) - The Japanese Government has agreed to fund a project in Laos that will support farmers in the north of the country in making the critical transition from growing opium to earning money from other livelihoods.
The $2.4 million project targets poor farmers from ethnic minorities living in the remote, mountainous province of Oudomxay. The implementing agencies will be the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Officially declared opium-free in 2004, Oudomxay remains very poor and could relapse into opium cultivation if farmers do not obtain sustainable employment to support themselves and their families. The project will focus on developing vocational training and rural enterprises.
"Laos is walking a fine tightrope between the bad old days of opium cultivation and an opium-free future," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. "It is vitally important that the international community should provide real support to farmers and I am grateful to the Government of Japan for its assistance."
The area under opium cultivation in Laos fell to 2,500 hectares in 2006, a decline of 91 percent from 1998, and the country is on track to becoming completely opium-free.
The current project is funded by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, which addresses problems of poverty and drug-dependence.
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Public Information Officer, UNODC
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