Maize and rice growers such as Sonkao and Nee (pictured) have experienced first-hand the difficulties of making a living from the land in Laos.

For a long time they were forced to sell their crops via middle-men who charged extortionate rates on taking their goods to the Chinese market. Each month it left them struggling to make ends meet for their family of seven, with no clear way out of the cycle.

Sonkao joined a farmer’s group, which is supported by a Cord advisor. The group gives him more bargaining power to earn a better income.

The group:

  • Fairly elect leaders
  • Formulate strategic plans for the group’s functioning
  • Work together to buy seeds and other inputs so as not to be reliant on the middle-men
  • Are able to get more income from a full harvest
  • Create marketing plans for the year ahead for better bargaining power

Tensions around access to land, rights and safety are still highly prevalent in Laos, a country which has had years of civil unrest, conflict and little readiness towards an open government. But in 2014, after three years of negotiations, Cord and the Laos Ministry of Home Affairs signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding. This means Cord staff have work permits enabling them to implement development plans for the region, including supporting farmer’s groups. The ceremony was covered by the Laos press and signifies a move forward for the country.

Cord’s vision of sustained peace in Laos:

  • Governance conducted in an equitable way
  • Enable Civil Society Organisation (CSO) to engage maturely with governance
  • Greater access to land rights
  • Increased CSOs peacefully responding to ecological land rights violations
  • Farming associations that actively lobby local authorities