Constraints, mitigations, and opportunities for sustainable development of rice-based system in Laos

Abstract Rice production in Xieng Ngeun District (XND), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) faces several challenges that have resulted in a decline in rice production and a, therefore, food insecurity in the country. Smallholder farmers in XND, Luang Prabang in the Northern part of Lao are the most affected resulting in poor households and economies. Therefore, this study aims first to identify the key constraints affecting rice production systems; secondly to review the opportunities that exist in the rice production systems and lastly, to discuss opportunities that exist if the constraints are mitigated that can boost sustainable development of rice-based systems (SDRBS). A structured questionnaire was administered to village headmen, community members, and farmers in the nine selected villages with a total sample size of 374 farmers. Farmers’ strength for rice is that they have agricultural land, on average 3 hectares per family. Apart from rice production, the majority of farmers have diversified into maize, Job’s tears, vegetable cultivation and livestock keeping. The key strength of the respondent was the availability of land as most of them had more than 3ha of agricultural land. The diversification into the production of other crops is an important constraint to rice production. Labour was also an important constraint to rice production as most families have more than six children; thus, one member has to stay behind to take care of the children. The opportunities to improve rice production is mainly in the adoption of modern farming approaches using improved rice varieties, fertilizer application, use of herbicides for weed control and pesticides for insects and disease control. The farmers do not use pesticides to control insect pest and disease, and thus perennially faced challenges in rice production due to pest and diseases outbreaks. Moreover, there was a low rice productivity since majority of the the farmers did not use fertilizers in their fields, with a paltry 0.8% of the farmers recording positive response to fertilizer use. Despite this, most of the farmers (78.3%) indicated that they do not use herbicides for weed control. Market accessibility was a major concern to the farmers due to poor road infrastructure, hence resulting in delayed farm operations and produce spoilage. The farmers should be encouraged to adopt modern farming practices such use of pesticides to insect and disease management, weed control using herbicides for weed control, and fertilizer applications for improved soil fertility and yield. Moreover, there exist additional opportunities to improve rice productivity through adoption of improved rice cultivars, farm mechanizations, provision of extension services and improved market accessibility.

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Constraints, mitigations, and opportunities for sustainable development of rice-based system in Laos

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