Upland Research in Lao PDR:
Experiences with Participatory
In the Lao PDR uplands, population pressure, convergence of villages to roads, and formulation of new land allocation policies are reducing fallow periods in the traditional slash-and-burn rice-based systems. Short fallow periods render these upland systems unsustainable as soil erosion, weed pressure, and labor inputs have increased. Yield likewise declined, causing increase levels of poverty. This situation has created a demand from both farmers and government agencies for sustainable agricultural technologies to improve upland farmers’ livelihood.
A considerable amount of research has been conducted over the years to develop suitable upland technologies. However, adoption by farmers was limited. One of the reasons is the vast upland diversity including biophysical (as seen in differences in climate and soils), socioeconomic (such as ethnic and cultural diversity and large differences in opportunities and constraints between individual households), and market (particularly market opportunities and market access) factors in the uplands. With such diversity, technology recommendations need to be site-specific. Further, these diversities necessitate the use of participatory and adaptive research approaches through which researchers and farmers can develop technologies suited to their conditions.
Lao PDR is landlocked in the heart of
Southeast Asia, bordered by Yunnan
Province of China, Cambodia,
Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Seventy percent of Lao PDR is
covered with mountains and high
plateaus. The Annamite mountains
run the length of the country as does
the Mekong mountains. Lao PDR has
a population of about 5.5 million,
comprising 68 ethnic groups. Majority
of its population live in the uplands.