As rice is the main crop in Laos, Lao farmers have a long history of growing rice using different techniques. In the lowland areas where farmers plant on paddy fields, the common technique is rice transplanting. Meanwhile, in the upland areas, farmers grow rice on the hills through direct-seeding, but since there is no irrigation in these areas, their crops are rain-fed. In both systems, the most demanding part of growing rice is labor. For the lowland farms, seed transplanting is labor-consuming, while for the upland farms, weeding, which is usually done by women, requires a lot of work.
To respond to these difficulties, various organizations developed and promoted various rice-growing techniques that aim to save labor. Among these techniques is seed broadcasting where farmers do not have to prepare seedlings for transplanting. Instead, they will only need to prepare the rice fields, broadcast (scatter) the seeds on the paddies, and wait for the crops to mature for harvesting. This technique works well especially for the farmers who can only employ few laborers and for those who do not have irrigation in their fields. However, with this technique, the yield is low because the farmers cannot control the weeds growing in the fields. The farmers deal with weed problems by using herbicides, but doing so may have negative impacts on their health and the environment.
Khammoune Xaymany, the president of the Lao Farmer Network and head of rice producer group in Jeng village, said that Vientiane province has been conducting Participatory Action Research on a new improved rice broadcasting technique which can completely eliminate weeds without the use of herbicides. This new technique is called “Beautiful Wife Growing Technique”. “The reason why your wife is beautiful is because she no longer has to work in the rice field, so she has time to look after herself,” explained Khammoune.
In this new technique, the rice plants, along with the weeds that grew in the field, have to be cut down after 60 days. “Two months after broadcasting the seeds, we have to cut down the rice and the grass together,” said Khammoune. “We keep the rice plant about 20-30 centimeters from the ground,” he added.
Khammoune said that after cutting down the rice, the weeds will die out while the rice plants grow back healthier. “I saw the rice plants that were eaten by buffaloes. They grew back and yield higher than other rice plants.”
Khammoune himself had tried out the technique in one hectare of his paddy fields in 2016, and it resulted to a 30% increase in yield and a significant reduction in labor. Not only will the new technique result to the women being beautiful, but also to much more beautiful rice harvests, as told by Khammoune.
For 2017, the Lao Farmer Network with support from AFSOP helped Khammoune conduct a Participatory Action Research with other farmers in his village which has a total area of around 15 hectares. The PAR process will include record keeping, video documentation and cross visit from other farmers to the experimental sites.
The “Beautiful Wife Growing Technique” of rice planting is easy to apply and can solve fundamental problems while reducing labor for women and at the same time protecting the environment. The technique reflects how farmers can be innovative, and can generate effective knowledge about farming–something that should be shared with farmers in other countries. ###