Thursday, 30 May 2013

My family now have enough rice to eat for the whole year!!- Mr. Chong cher vang (Farmer Houay Kua village/Met/Laos)

“My family have enough rice to eat for whole year” says Mr. Chong cher vang- Houay Kua village

We have our regular visit to Houay Kua village in Met district on 8th may 2013. Sivone (program Officer –OAU) and myself were interested to get more updates on irrigation system working and how the benefits have reached to the people?

We met 4 beneficiaries Mr. Chong Cher Vang, Mr. Nyla po yang, Mr. ka vue yang, Mr. fue yang  who are benefiting from irrigation system constructed by Oxfam Australia under the AUSAID grant in 2009.

(In Picture: first row left : Mr. Chong, Mr Sivone, rear row from left: Mr. ka vue yang, Mr. fue yang, Mr. Nyla po yang) 

Mr. Chong cher vang 41 years old having 11 members family ( 7 children, wife and sister in law) to take care of.
Mr. Chong says “we are very thankful to Oxfam for having this system constructed in our village; we are 13 families and total of 10 ha. land benefitting from this system, before we had no irrigation so we used to plant rice and keep waiting for rain, I am having 1 ha. land and the rice yield was 3.0 ton/ ha.”
He says “3.0 ton rice was only good for 7-8 months so we used to have food gap of 4-5 months every year, we kept selling our animals and used the cash to buy rice for many years un till irrigation system constructed..”
Mr. chong with happy face mention that “After irrigation system established my rice production increased from 3.0 ton to 5.0 ton/ ha. and the quality seeds improved as well so i am having no rice shortage, my family have enough rice to eat for the whole year”
I was further curios to know that how they are going to maintain irrigation system?
The group mentioned that they have Irrigation committee which is responsible for regular operations and maintenance of system. The beneficiaries have decided to contribute 10,000 kip (1.5 USD)/ year towards the maintenance fund.
Mr. Chong mention that during Haima typhoon 2011 the banks of irrigation system were eroded but all 13 families together contributed labour + 1.0 million kip (approx 125 USD) to repair and bring back the system in use.
Mr. Chong and Mr. Nyla says “now we have running water in our farm all throughout the year so we are encouraged to grow vegetables and surprisingly we are having 80-100 kg of vegetable production for the period when we have no rice on field (Jan-June) ... we have more than enough vegetables for house hold consumption so we are selling a big amount of vegetables in the village morning market (talat sao) which usually takes place twice a month and people from surrounding districts and villages come to buy. we can sale up to 50-60 kg. Veg. / month @ 3000 kip/ kg... so apart from enough rice we have additional income of 150,000 kip (approx 20 $)/ month which enables us to save our animals, spend on medical and education and extra cash for emergency if any.”
I asked them do you think this system will continue working. They said sure if not then we have money to repair and make it work. We (13 families) are not relying on outside help any more.
This is how the irrigation systems contribute to sustainable “food security”!!!
-Story and pictures by Manish Mehta – PM Oxfam Australia - Laos
- Translation help from Sivone – PO  Oxfam Australia- Laos

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Journey to the place which is out of “Google map” or “Wikipedia” !!

 Date: 22nd Oct 2012 Place: KAlum district, Sekong province, Lao PDR.

My day started with team meeting in kalum district office, during the meeting we decided it is good to visit one or two villages today. Somkhit and Khambay confirmed that it is possible to visit two villages in a day one is Jing and other one is SongKhone!!

We had to take district government staff with us so Khambay quickly arranged it.. we had two Govt. Officers , pik, Khambay, Somkhit and myself had to packed in to hilux !! being only lady pik got advantage to sit in front seat and we 5 men were packed in back seat.. Very uncomfortable sitting arrangements but it was ok.. none of us were on hefty we could somehow fit-in.

We started our journey around 9:30 am.. .. before leaving town team decided to take some roasted eggs [amazing delicacy: they inject the black pepper, salt and green chillies in raw egg and grill it over charcoal] and canned fish and we had left over sticky rice from previous evening.
sekong river is flowing just few meters away from the Kalum town, the river is around 100 mt wide and 8-9 mt. Deep. We had to cross the river along with our car...using pontoon [raft] services available, they charges 150,000 kip [20$]/car for crossing river to and fro.  We took only 10 min to cross the river.

We had to take the dirt road which goes thru the highly undulated and hilly terrines, forest and mountains.. The road rather track is fairly ok [infect newly carved in 2010], before 2010 the villages were only accessible by feet.
We could go with 20-25 km/hr speed.

As we progresses i was fascinated by the surroundings; this is one of the most beautiful places i ever been to...lush green mountains and continuously flowing river on one side.. The beauty of nature left my uncomfortable feeling away.. i started enjoying the journey...

In 45 min. we had to cross the river again. This time it is shallow portion of river where car can go thru over big bed rocks and 2 ft of water. The river here is calm , not much difficult to cross this part. There is bamboo bridge for pedestrians as well.

After that bridge again we started climbing the mountain, the cart road goes well not much bounces except occasional ditches.. after 30 min journey we reached to the river again... very similar crossing , 2 ft of water, solid big rocks so not much difficult for car to cross. At the same time good bamboo bridge for pedestrians and small bikes to cross over..

The river banks are wider over here and full of pebbles... it was around 11:15 am.. we decided to break for lunch. We walked over bamboo bridge and walked along the river for 30mt and found good flat palce [full of pebbles , well rounded edges rocks due to water erosion] my team were so used to adjust , they quickly prepared some flat rocks to keep the food and sitting place.. Khambay brought some dry branches and leaves to roast the dry red chillies....Selam svongsack cut  used water bottles vertically in to two halves to keep the fish... J the food was ready in 10 min...
 One of the most exotic lunch like on a picnic spot!!
After finishing lunch govt officer Mr. Keoudon collected all remains, residues and cleaned the place and made it like we never had lunch there J

We continued our journey further, we reached to Jing village in about 7-10 min.. and suddenly i realised that i am missing my camera!! L it was lost.... so driver , pik and i decided to go back to the lunch palce and conduct the search... we went back.. and on a big surprise i found my camera right at the palce where we took lunch!! How lucky i am?

So after getting hold of my camera we reached back to jing village, the villagers started coming in, as many of them were on mountain for taking care of rice we could only gather 12 people [10 men , 2 women].
Our purpose is to conduct the quick PCVA [participatory capacity and vulnerability analysis].
The information about the village is as follows:
Demographic information:
Village: Jing
Population: 235 people, 110 women [total 75 HH where 42 household are only husband andwife]
Ethnic group: Kreang , Language Kreang
Location: 1.5 hrs drive from kaluem town
Access: November to May. [approx.7months a year]
LANGOCA: no implementation only started this year.
People accompanied: Pik, Khambay, Somkhit and Manish from Oxfam Australia, Mr. Keoudon [Head of District Development office], Mr. Seoung sack [Head of Labour and social welfare]

·         12 villagers including 2 women were present in PCVA

PVCA findings:
The Vulnerabilities:
-          Main disaster is Drought which is frequently happening, almost every year.
-          Main vulnerability:

  • -          Poor people
  • -          Geographically difficult location.
  • -          Only income source is upland rice cultivation.
  • -          The drought is mainly defined by villagers as the lack of rain and erratic rainfall pattern, which is not sufficient for the upland rice, the rice crop fails from 30% to 70% and in severe condition 100% failure.
  • -          The community started planting rice by mid-may so if the rain delayed after early july the rice crop fails.
  • -          The community is a farming community with some animals [pig, cow, buffalo, duck].The only thing they know and are confident is about doing upland rice. Not much income from animal rising apart from meat requirements.
  • -          Almost no know-how of agriculture practices apart from traditional knowledge of upland rice farming.
  • -          The hunger season varies from 3-6 months.
  • -          Hygiene knowledge appears low.
  • -          Still using family level delivery of babies rather than going to DHC or even using village birth attendant.

  • The capacities:
  • -          Small population and well knitted village
  • -          Men and women work in harmony and help eachother.
  • -          The district health centre is 3 km. away and has most of the general medicine available.
  • -          Good regulations and understanding of NRM at village level.
  • -          Enough forest around the village to feed the animals as well as population in-case rice fails so hunger seasons don’t prolong.
  • -          Government helps 4 kg/person rice every year, which is not sufficient but villagers know how to mix the diet with forest vegetables /fruits and rice so it will help.
  • -          The adaptive capacity of people is high.
  • -          The wild fruits, jams, sweet potato, kasawa etc are available in the forest whole year around.
  • -          Some families collect the forest products and exchange with rice.
  • The request from villagers:
  • -          The villagers were not articulate enough for alternatives to drought, they have requested to give them rice or money.
  • -          More help in kasawa plantation.
  • -          More knowledge/ information on weather especially about the rain so they can choose between kasawa and rice.
----------- -------------------------
At around 14:15 we completed our PCVA and decided to visit next village which is around 10 min. further drive...
We reached to village Song khon.

We visited one farmer who was benefited from irrigation scheme, ate some sugarcane at his place and started our journey back to kalum at around 3:15.... 

we passed by jing, crossed the river and when we reached to the second crossing... 

we saw the big truck full of steel bars got stuck in the river.. ..the truck was coming toward us....

It was around 4:00 pm. we immediately realized that this is going to be a nightmare... because if truck cant cross the river we cannot cross either...... the sun started going down and the evening is approaching quickly... in this part the sun set early and at 6.00 it becomes darker..
We parked our car.. we started helping truck guys in pushing and pulling the rocks beneath the big wheels !!
Two helpers, truck driver and 3 of our team member did all what we could do... but failed to bring truck out.... thee tail part of chassis got stuck on a big rock.... the taks was to move the rock away but truck was too heavy [of course] and rock too L ...... the truck driver did two failed attempts to pull the truck back and forth... L ..........

We started discussing about our options.... shall we go back and stay in jing village over night? Or shall we call another car?!! The government officer had important meeting next day so did we.. so we decided to call district office and call the car.... but there we no mobile signals at the place we were.... so Khambay and one of the government officer took our car.. went back on a high point and called the district office... fortunately the district governor was in town and he kindly agreed to sent his car.. ..

We decided to leave our car and driver there .. I gave enough money to driver to stay overnight and fees for pontoon........ we started walking.. we crossed the bamboo bridge.... we walked about 15 min and suddenly we heard the sound of car climbing the mountain behind us........... Surprise.. bingoo... 

the truck came out and our car crossed the river.. so here we go.. back in our car... started inching towards the district town.. in 10-15 min. we met the district car... the government officer got in to their car and we moved on.. ... our car was front runner... and a better car so we arrived at pontoon earlier.... we decided to wait for other car but it took a bit longer..... so we started worrying... after 15 min waiting we decided to send our car back to find district car.... we found out that after we left.. the dirt went in to exhaust pipe of district car and it stopped..... they took hard efforts to blow it away.... finally in 30 min.. both the cars arrived at pontoon.... it was around 6:45 pm... ... in 10 min.. we were on the other side of the river... J it ended well.  safe and comfortable.........

What a day it was? J..............