The organic vegetable group in Houyoun village, Xay district, Oudomxay province is a member of the Lao Farmer Network (LFN) since 2016. The group has about 300 members in the village producing organic vegetables since 2015, which they sell to local market in Xay town. Besides growing vegetable, they also produce some grapes.
During the visit of the LFN secretariat in January 2017, the group expressed their interest to learn about processing wine and adding value to their organic vegetable garden. The idea of setting up agro-tourism also came out. However, they don’t have a clear ideas on how to do it or what are steps toward.
Because of these reasons, LFN organized a study visit for 10 Khmou farmers (5 women, 5 youth) from the Houyoun organic vegetable group to visit an agro-tourism site, the Vangvieng organic farm in Vientiane province, on 14-15 February 2017.
The trip was a very interesting event for many farmers because most of them have never gone out of their provinces to explore other farms, especially the Vangvieng organic farm, which has more than 2 decades of experiences in integrated farming, processing, running organic restaurant/farm stay and community development work.
One of the key impressions of the visit was the inter-connectivity of all farm activities. For example, the farm raise traditional pigs and their meat is used for their restaurant. The dung is used for bio-gas, while the compost from bio-gas is used for their crop. Nothing is wasted. All things are connected. The farmers planned to improve the pig house in the way they collect the dung, while the farmers that don’t have pigs yet would like to raise some because they need the dung to make compost for their vegetable garden.
Farmers also learned the importance of grading, packaging and processing to add value to their products. For example, they learned how to make wine, jam and tea. They also planned to do a basic value adding to their vegetables by grading and cleaning and to make pickles and sauce.
Another output from this event is the plan by farmers to develop a tourism facility in their village. It includes building of toilets, a restaurant, parking space, traditional huts in their ethnic style and advertising materials.
The farmers did not only take away ideas, but also contacts and materials. Farmers were happy to bring back mulberry seedlings, earth worms and other seeds back home. The Vangvieng organic farm also offered other longer training on wine making in the future.
However, the key challenge is that the farmers still don’t have a strong organization. They feel that they need to discuss more to improve their organizational system because running tourism services requires stronger organizations and resources.
This activity is funded by LURAS – The Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service, an SDC-funded program in Laos.
LFN is an AFA member and is the national implementing agency of MTCP2 in Laos.