Songkao and his wife Nee are from the Khamu ethnic group living in Beng District, Oudomxay, North Laos. They have five children with the oldest son having finished school and is dreaming of going to University.

Their family income comes from the maize and rice they grow. They rely on powerful middle-men who dominate access to the market in China to sell on their produce. The middle-men give Songkao and Nee seeds for planting, as they do not have enough money to buy their own. The deal is that they must sell their produce to the middle-men, who charge very high interest on the seed loan given at the start of the season. This can sometimes be as high as 50% and leaves very little for families like Songkao and Nee to live on.

Stopping the cycle through partnership

Songkao is a member of a farmer’s group which is supported by Cord and a Cord advisor is on hand to help facilitate discussions. Here’s what his group have done:

  • Elected group leaders
  • Formulated a strategic plan for the group’s functioning
  • Worked together to buy seeds and other inputs so not reliant on middle-men
  • Able to get more income from a full harvest as a result
  • Create marketing plans for next year for better bargaining power


Being able to pay for his son’s university

Sonkao is very hopeful and estimates that the overall benefit will be sufficient to enroll his oldest son to University this year.  Cord’s assistance has somehow opened his eyes, together we are stronger and as a group we are able to engage in new activities.
working as  a group has also strengthened the relationships in the village, we trust each other and back each other when there are problems. The village as a whole has gained from this”