Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Lao PDR – Progress on Standards in the Southeast Asian Food Trade (SAFT)’s integrated Public Private Partnership (iPPP)

Since DPS Group Co., Ltd. started its first farm business known as “Phutawen Farm Project” five years ago, the company now combines agriculture, business, and tourism in Ban Hai Village, Pak-ngum District, Vientiane Capital. This project will serve as a model to promote sustainable food production and agro-tourism across Lao PDR.

DPS Group started its farm business in 2012. As informed by Mrs. Dalounny Douangpaseuth, Vice President of DPS Group, “We spent the first 2 years for information searching on agriculture, conducting feasibility study and SWOT Analysis. Phutawen Farm project really started since last 3 years. Due to our business, we had chance to travel to different part of the country. We have seen a lot of empty land which the owners had no clue what to do to generate an income. Moreover, we have seen many supports to agricultural sector in Lao PDR coming from international donors. However, the beneficiaries (i.e. farmers) were not able to continue after the project faded out. We have seen opportunity out there”.

Agriculture is a key sector for Lao PDR. Around 75% of population is engaged in Agriculture. However, the sector in general is still considered underdeveloped and income generation is relatively low. “With Phutawen Farm Project, we aim to promote sustainable agriculture that is safe and has good quality and environmental friendly. We hope to share the knowledge we have to interested people and can contribute to improvement of farmers’ livelihood. We provide opportunity to students as well as interested people to have an internship and real practices at our farm”, said Mrs. Dalounny Douangpaseuth.

In 2016, DPS Group’s Phutawen Farm Project entered into cooperation with the GIZ-ASEAN project Standards in the Southeast Asian Food Trade (SAFT). The integrated Public-Private Partnership (iPPP) contract was signed by DPS Group and GIZ on 30 September 2016.

Under the collaboration with GIZ, DPS will verifiably apply Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards for the fruits and vegetables production farm, and the Lao Organic standard for the  rice and field crops farm. Regional market linkages as well as farmer and consumer awareness will also be strengthened in the process.

In regards to the motivation behind this project, Mr. Kayphet Douangpaseuth, President of DPS Group, explained, “Consumers nowadays increase more concern that food they eat should be safe and have good quality. However, the country flooded in with imported food from neighboring countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and China which might contains high chemical residue. Through food standards, it can ensure that food we consume is safe. Currently, agricultural and food products that comply with certain food standards are rarely available or limited. Therefore, we would like to start from our farm first to produce quality products that comply with national and regional food standards and to be the showcase that other farmers/companies can learn. In general, local consumers are not aware of the importance of food standards and that we need to educate them and raise their awareness. We would like to create a model farm that benefits local community and Laos’s agricultural sector.”

With the support from GIZ, different experts have been invited to the farm. One expert from Kasetsart University, Thailand, who specializes on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), conducted a training on GAP standard for farm staffs in November 2016. Recommendations on how to make improvements to comply with GAP were also provided by her. The farm has also been supported by 2 other experts with experience working with the Royal Project Thailand on the 2 main topics; plant production and pre- and post-harvest handling. Both on-the-job trainings and in class trainings were conducted at the farm to train farm staffs as well as university students. They learned about plant production, plant production planning in greenhouses, plant propagation, proper chemical usage, integrated pest management, pre-and post-harvest management, how to reduce postharvest losses, quality production and quality management.

We thank all the different organizations such as ADB, GIZ, Department of Tourism Promotion, District Agricultural Office, Agricultural Office of Vientiane Capital, Borikamxay Provincial Office, regional and international experts, among many others, for their continuous support and a shared vision for this farm.

Phutawen Farm opened to the public from 15 January 2017 to 15 February 2017. Several activities were offered including farm tours, cycling, and camping. Visitors could enjoy a combination of agriculture and nature such as watching blooming of sunflowers and cosmos fields, as well as picking and buying fresh vegetables i.e. tomatoes (big size and cherry tomatoes), salad, cucumber (over the weekend) from the farm. Farm visit after 15 February is still possible over the weekend. During the weekday, contact to the farm for booking in advance is needed.