Archive for June, 2013

June 30, 2013

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb.: Siouxland Freedom Park & John Douangdara Statue

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.kwwl.com/story/16022096/deputies-honor-doungdara-at-musketeer-game?clienttype=printable
Posted: Nov 11, 2011 10:49 PM EDT

By Matt Breen, Evening Anchor – bio | email

As we honor our veterans across the country, a tribute Friday night to a young Siouxland man, who didn’t come home.

After the national anthem at the Sioux City Musketeer hockey game, officers from the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Department rappelled down the wall with a banner bearing a picture of John Doungdara, and his dog.

In August, Navy Master at Arms Doungdara, of South Sioux City, died when his chopper was shot down and crashed in Afghanistan.

His family watched a video tribute at center ice, and was presented with the banner. “We are here to honor Johnny Doungdara, a true hero, who didn’t even live his entire life in this country, but he gave his.”

The Doungdara family was presented with a $1,000 check for a new dog park to be built near the Freedom Park in South Sioux City. Doungdara was a dog handler for the Navy Seals.

—-

Lao Immigrant Family Learns Son Died in Afghan Helicopter Crash

http://wp.me/pBFq2-2mZ

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. — The family of a U.S. Navy SEAL serving in Afghanistan confirmed the death of their son and brother on Saturday in a helicopter crash in Wardak province.

The city is located just across the river from Sioux City, Iowa.

Sengchanh Douangdara, the mother of U.S. Navy SEAL John Douangdara, said military officials approached her home at 10 a.m. Saturday to deliver the news of her son’s death. Master at Arms, Class 1 John Douangdara, 26, was a dog handler for the elite military unit.

The 2003 South Sioux City High School graduate was aboard a Chinook helicopter with 37 others when the aircraft was shot down during an anti-Taliban operation in the Tangi Valley.

Thirty U.S. troops were killed, including nearly two dozen members of the U.S. Navy SEALs. Seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter also were killed in the deadliest incident for U.S. forces since the start of the decadelong war.

“I didn’t even know Johnny was a Navy SEAL,” his mother said. “I know that he loved his job, it was a job he chose.”

June 27, 2013

Laos Dams: Warning over Laos dam construction

Work to construct the yet-to-be-approved Don Sahong hydropower dam project continues to progress, posing a major threat to the livelihoods of families living on the Mekong, despite the fact a consultation into the scheme has not been carried out, it has been warned.

A Daring Fisherman Crosses Khone Falls in Southern Laos, the area in which the Don Sahong hydropower dam project is getting underway, even though the required public consultations are yet to be carried out. (Photo: International Rivers)

Environmental campaign group International Rivers visited the Don Sahong dam site last week in the Khone Falls area of Southern Laos, less than two kilometres upstream from the Laos-Cambodia border.

International Rivers claim that “numerous activities” are underway at the project site, even though the Laos government has not yet initiated the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) required consultation process, set out in the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

Ame Trandem, International Rivers’ Southeast Asia program director, said work to prepare for building the dam’s access roads and bridge has started. The actual construction of the roads and bridge is apparently scheduled to begin next year.

The group also raised concerns that work had begun on the project last September, when locals reported that dam builders had blasted a waterfall near the Don Sahong site.

Last week, villagers told International Rivers that construction on the Don Sahong dam’s bridge and access roads will begin in 2014, Ms Trandem said, adding that the dam’s developer, Malaysia’s Mega First Corporation Berhad, has hired local people to place markers indicating which land will be used for the bridge and roads.

The Don Sahong project is the second of 11 proposed hydropower dam schemes for the Mekong. Work on the first – the Xayaburi dam in Laos – began last year. Much of the electricity generated by the dams will be exported to Thailand.

International law and the Mekong Agreement prohibit one government from starting to implement projects on the river while the other affected governments are still evaluating proposals for any such scheme.

But International Rivers say developers began work at the Xayaburi dam site, signed the power purchase agreement with Thailand, and signed financing agreements with Thai banks, while discussions at the Mekong River Commission were still underway.

“It’s clear that the Don Sahong dam is following the same trajectory that the Xayaburi dam took, in which secrecy and illicit project implementation topples regional cooperation,” Ms Trandem said.  “Sadly, what is happening at Khone Falls is emblematic of the failure of the MRC to address the problems related to the Xayaburi dam.”

“The Xayaburi dam has set a dangerous precedent that undermines future regional cooperation and illustrates the need for urgent reform of the MRC’s prior consultation process before additional projects proceed.”

Activists claim the dams will hurt fisheries, agriculture and food security downstream in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, destroying the livlihoods of people who rely on the river as a source of food and income. No compensation will be provided to fishermen who can no longer use traditional fish traps.

“The Don Sahong dam would be an environmental calamity,” said Ms. Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers’ campaign coordinator for Thailand. “The project is aimed at increasing Mega First Corporation’s profits while exacerbating the already known and very serious impacts of the dam on regional fisheries and biodiversity.

“If built, the Don Sahong dam will inevitably and irreversibly block the only channel in the Khone Falls that fish can migrate upstream and downstream during the dry season, leading to predictably serious impacts on fish catches, species and the livelihoods of millions of people in the region.”

The Don Sahong dam will not only block the only channel in the Khone Falls area that allows for year-round fish migration, but also threatens one of the few remaining habitats of the already endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, she added.

Ms. Kumpin Aksorn from the Thai community organisation Hug Namkhong joined International Rivers on the site visit.

“The Mekong River’s fisheries do not stop at each country’s political boundaries. Projects affecting the river need to be decided on a regional basis,” she said. “The Don Sahong and other mainstream dams are foolhardy and dangerous, as they threaten to fundamentally change the nature of the river and its resources, which serves as the lifeblood for millions of people in the region.

“Before cross-border tensions grow, full public disclosure of the project’s environmental impact assessment is urgently required, as well as meaningful consultations with affected communities and neighboring countries.”

A report by the Mekong River Commission published last year found that the construction of 12 proposed dams in the lower Mekong River would cause serious problems for the two million people living downstream in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, because the dams would stop 55 per cent of the river from flowing freely.

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June 25, 2013

Mekong River: River be damned – ร่วมปกป้องแม่น้ำโขง

https://www.facebook.com/Stopxayaburidam

ฟังเสียง “ผู้เสียสละ” ชาวบ้านที่อพยพออกจากหัวงานเขื่อนไซยะบุรีที่บ้านนาตอใหญ่ ห่างออกไปจากแม่น้ำโขง 35 กม.วันนี้หนังสือพิมพ์ The Age ของออสเตรเลีย รายงานข่าวสืบสวนสอบสวนกรณีเขื่อนบนแม่น้ำอู โดยบริษัทไซโนไฮโดร จากจีน และเขื่อนไซยะบุรี กั้นแม่น้ำโขง ในประเทศลาว สร้างโดยบริษัท ช.การช่างนักข่าวลงพื้นที่แปลงอพยพ ถามเรื่องราวจากชาวบ้าน “เราต้องมาเริ่มจากศูนย์” ครูในโรงเรียนกล่าวชาวบ้านกลุ่มแรกประมาณ 300 คนถูกย้ายจากริมแม่น้ำโขงมายังหมู่บ้านแห่งใหม่ “คนเฒ่าคนแก่ไม่อยากย้ายมา” ผู้เฒ่าชื่อคำเขียว กล่าว “เราเกิดริมน้ำโขง พ่อแม่ก็เกิดริมโขง บางคนเห็นบ้านใหม่ที่นี่ถึงกับร้องไห้”

“หากินยาก เมื่อก่อนได้ร่อนทองริมน้ำโขงหารายได้ แต่ตอนนี้ไม่มีอะไรทำเลย…”

ชาวบ้าน 25 ครอบครัวหนีกลับไปยังแม่น้ำโขง ไปจับปลา-หากิน แบบที่เคยทำก่อนมีเขื่อน

—-ได้ยินแบบนี้รู้สึกยังไงบ้าง?
—– ช.การช่างเอ๋ย สร้างเขื่อนไซยะบุรีตั้งแสนล้าน ดูแลชาวบ้านให้ดีกว่านี้หน่อยได้ไหม เขาอยู่กันมาก่อน “เขื่อน” ของคุณนะ

หยุด เขื่อนไซยะบุรี(stop Xayaburi Dam)

อ่านข่าวฉบับเต็ม http://www.theage.com.au/world/river-be-damned-20130613-2o6r4.html

— at Xayaburi.

 —-

River be damned

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/1572463/river-be-damned/?cs=5

By Dave Tacon

June 14, 2013, 3 a.m.

A boy stands on the banks of the Mekong River near the relocation site for a Lao village, which was moved to make way for the Xayaburi Dam. Photo: Dave Tacon

As the narrow longtail boat glides downstream from the dusty hamlet of Nong Kiew towards the golden temples of Luang Prabang, mirror images of jungle, vertical limestone cliffs and impossibly steep mountains shimmer in the waters of the Nam Ou River, a tributary of the mighty Mekong.

Endangered Asian elephants and Indochinese tigers still roam the upper reaches of the river within Phou Den Din National Protected Area, one of 20 national parks in Laos. This is the beauty that tourists, many Australians among them, come so far to see.

Yet this undeveloped region in northern Laos is about to be jolted into the industrial age. Three hours downriver from Nong Kiew, a scar of ochre-coloured dirt and rock stretches for kilometres: construction of the Nam Ou 2 Dam is steamrolling ahead.

”We started early this year and we’ll be finished in three years,” boasts a Chinese engineer dwarfed by a colossal concrete dam wall. Conversation is brought to an abrupt halt when his superior arrives. ”You have to leave,” he says. ”We don’t want pictures of this posted on Weibo [the Chinese version of Twitter].”

The 450 kilometre-long Nam Ou, one of the few Lao rivers traversable by boat for its entire length, will soon be severed seven times over by a 350-kilometre stretch of hydropower dams built and maintained by Chinese giant Sinohydro.

The Nam Ou 2 belongs to the first phase of the $1.95 billion project, which is expected to be operational by 2018. Details surrounding the project are scant. Even the final destination for the proposed 1146 megawatts of hydropower is unclear, although the Lao government claims the first three dams, Nam Ou 2, 5 and 6, will provide electricity for domestic consumption.

Details of the other dams have not been made public. Ultimately, the Phou Den Din National Protected Area will be partially inundated by the two northernmost dams, the Nam Ou 6 and 7, in violation of Sinohydro’s own environmental policy against development inside national parks. A pristine waterway and one of the last intact ecosystems in the region will change forever.

Despite concerns of environmentalists and objections by neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the tiny, landlocked nation of Laos is following China’s lead in its exploitation of the Mekong River and its tributaries.

China already has five hydropower dams operating and three more are planned for the upper reaches of the Mekong, the river that begins in the Tibetan Plateau and continues through China and five south-east Asian nations on its way to the South China Sea. Questions remain as to whether the river and those who depend on it for their livelihoods can survive.

”The government tells us that this will develop Laos,” says 65-year-old fisherman Thongsai Chanthalangsy, speaking at his village half an hour downstream from the Nam Ou 2 construction site. ”It’s not for the people,” he continues, ”the power will mostly be sold overseas. We can’t talk to the government. We have to follow what they say.”

Chanthalangsy has been advised that his home, which falls within the catchment of the planned Nam Ou 1 dam, will not be submerged, yet many other homes in his village will be.

”They will build more dams and the problems will get worse. When it’s finished there might not be enough water for our gardens and not enough fish to catch. There won’t be compensation. We’ll have to move.”

The Mekong and its tributaries are the front line of a massive development drive by Laos’ communist, one-party leadership to lift the nation from the ranks of Asia’s poorest countries.

Although hydroelectric power will bring much-needed revenue to the impoverished country, many fear that dams will cost dearly Laos, and all those for whom the Mekong is a lifeblood. In Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, more than 60 million people depend on the Mekong for food, income and transportation.

Ground zero for the Mekong is the gargantuan Xayaburi Dam, a project led by Thai construction firm Ch Karnchang. Dynamite and heavy machinery have already blasted, gouged and scraped away entire mountainsides above both banks of the swift-flowing waters about 30 kilometres from the provincial town of Xayabury.

Steep, winding, unmade roads carry a constant procession of trucks, earth movers, workers and occasionally armed soldiers to the expansive site. The $3.4 billion price tag of 810-metre-long and 32-metre-high Laos-Thai mega dam is being footed by a conglomerate of six Thai banks.

On its completion in 2019, around 95 per cent of the hydropower dam’s 1260 megawatts will be exported to Thailand. This is almost a third of the power generated by the 16 major dams of Australia’s Snowy Mountains Scheme, built over a period of 25 years to generate around 3700 megawatts.

Along with the immediate environmental impact of a project of such magnitude, hundreds of villagers have been resettled to make way for the dam.

At the new village, Natornatoryai, close to the construction site, teacher Khao Thevongsa, 28, is dissatisfied with the location, with its steep hills of barely arable land and the constant stream of traffic to the site.

She hopes that the dam may become a tourist attraction in its own right. ”We have to start from zero,” she says, ”but when the dam is finished maybe tourists will come here to see it and we can earn more money.” Almost every answer to a question begins with, ”We don’t have a choice.”

About 300 were first shifted to Natornatoryai, which is about 35 kilometres from the river. ”The old people didn’t want to move here,” says 63-year-old Khamkeo Daovong as her daughter-in-law and child play on her concrete floor. ”I was born near the river and so were my parents. Many people cried when they saw their new homes.”

Daovong complains that her house was unfinished when she moved in. The mismatched cinder-block and terracotta bricks were paid for out of her own pocket to keep out the dust and wind. Compensation in the form of rice and about $16.40 in cash per month dried up after one year instead of the promised three.

”I was given pigs and ducks to raise, but it’s very difficult to make money. I used to pan for gold, but now I just do nothing.”

According to non-government organisation International Rivers, about 25 families have already left the village to return to the river to fish, tend their river bank gardens and pan for gold.

For those who live in Laos, open opposition to the dam is unthinkable. The Lao regime has a history of ruthlessly silencing dissent.

On December 15 last year, Sombath Somphone, 62, a prominent campaigner for the environment and the rural poor, and a champion for sustainable development, was abducted from a police roadblock by two unidentified men in the nation’s capital, Vientiane.

Somphone, the 2005 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay prize, often referred to as Asia’s Nobel prize, has not been seen or heard from since. The Laos government denies any involvement. The official explanation for his disappearance was a ”business dispute”, although the activist has no business interests.

The incident brought rare international attention to Laos, as then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, led calls for a thorough and transparent investigation into Somphone’s whereabouts and wellbeing.

International calls to the Laos government for action and information on Somphone remain unheeded. In a recent statement by New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch, Asia director Brad Adams accused the Lao government of direct involvement in the activist’s disappearance.

”Lao authorities have not answered the simplest questions, such as why, if Sombath was kidnapped, did the police at the scene do nothing to protect him,” Adams said. ”The absence of any real investigation points to the government’s responsibility.”

The reasons for the activist’s disappearance are unclear. But Somphone’s abduction has worsened an already fearful climate in Laos’ environmental grassroots organisations.

Land rights and enforced disappearances aside, dams on the Mekong have serous ramifications far beyond the borders of Laos. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of 11 dams planned for the Lower Mekong River, nine of which are in Laos. Environmentalists have already blamed China’s five Mekong dams, as well as drought, for some of the lowest water levels seen on the river in 50 years. China denies it is responsible.

On top of providing crucial sediment for arable land downstream, the Mekong sustains the world’s largest inland fishery, with 877 species. According to conservation group Great Rivers Partnership, this supplies an industry worth between $3.84 billion and $6.89 billion.

Fish are a foundation of regional food security. In Cambodia, 80 per cent of the nation’s animal protein is provided by freshwater fisheries. Alarmingly, a study of the proposed 11 Lower Mekong hydropower dams by the International Centre of Environmental Management concluded that the dams would reduce fish numbers by 26 per cent to 42 per cent.

Regional famine is a worst-case scenario. Claims by the Lao government and Xayaburi dam officials that fish ladders will allow safe passage for migratory Mekong fish species have been met with great scepticism.

Organised dissent to the Xayaburi Dam has mainly come from Thailand. A flotilla of Thai fishermen and villagers who worked the Mekong travelled to Vientiane to protest during the Asia-Europe Meeting.

In April, delegates from eight Thai provinces on the Mekong were joined by protesters from Cambodia as they occupied the entrance to the headquarters of the dam’s construction company, Cr Karnchang, one of the dam’s financiers.

Although limited at present, opposition to dams on the Mekong may be about to rise rapidly as more dams are built and their impact becomes apparent. Beyond street and river protests, there are rumblings at the highest levels of government that threaten to become a diplomatic stoush.

Should the worst fears of environmentalists materialise, countries downstream from the dams stand to bear the brunt of any damage to the Mekong’s ecosystem. Although Vietnam and Cambodia have plans for their own hydropower projects, they have already objected to the Xayaburi Dam through the Mekong River Commission, of which Thailand and Laos are also members.

Both countries have argued that work on the Xayaburi Dam breaks an agreement forged in December 2010 that no dams would be built until studies on negative trans-boundary environmental impacts were completed.

Vietnam has called for a 10-year moratorium on all Mekong dams. Such concerns have been brushed aside by Lao Deputy Minister for Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Viravonghas, who claimed the extensive construction is merely ”preparatory work”.

”Laos has simply ignored the requests repeatedly made by Cambodia and Vietnam to study the trans-boundary impacts of the dam,” says Ame Trandem, south-east Asia program director at International Rivers.

”The Mekong is becoming the testing grounds for new technologies, which may prove to have disastrous effects. The entire future of the river’s ecosystem is at stake. The Xayaburi Dam is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Dave Tacon is an Australian journalist based in Shanghai.


Related:

Dams and Disease Triggers on the Lower Mekong River

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.plosntds.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pntd.0002166

Most concern over controversial dam building on the Mekong River focuses on river ecology and food security, with limited attention given to the potential threat dams pose to public health via disease ecology and food safety. In this perspective Dr. Alan Ziegler and colleagues show how cascades of dams can trigger the incidence of some water-associated diseases, potentially leading to epidemics. Finally the authors propose alternative strategies for energy generation by working with the monsoon climate regime.

We recognize a number of uncertainties in our assessment of the linkages between dam building and disease triggers. For example, the risk of disease incidence will probably always vary greatly throughout the Mekong basin. In the case of O. viverrini, incidence is in part determined by food-related elements of the culture, namely the predilection of some groups of people to eat insufficiently cooked fish dishes [12]. In areas where infection from aquaculture fish are of concern, introducing exotic fish that are not known hosts of trematode parasites could reduce the risk of increased human infection, but such species might not be accepted in particular types of local dishes because of taste preferences [12], [14].
At a larger scale, the proposed cascade of dams may offset increases in the transition of several types of water-borne and vector-borne communicable diseases that often occurs following large, protracted floods. However, such a positive outcome is uncertain, as floods of this scale are related to unpredictable climatic events, as well as to reservoir storage and release management decisions. With the major focus of Mekong dams being power generation, high water levels are quite likely to be maintained throughout the late part of the monsoon season when tropical storms strike the Mekong basin [18]. Recent floods on the Chao Phraya River in Thailand and the Sesan River in Vietnam were arguably exacerbated by the difficulties of managing reservoirs when catchments were wet, reservoirs were full, and tropical storms struck [18], [19].

About the Authors

Alan D. Ziegler, Carl Grundy-Warr, Robert J. Wasson
Geography Department, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Trevor N. Petney
Department of Ecology and Parasitology, Zoology Institute, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
Ross H. Andrews, Paiboon Sithithaworn
Department of Parasitology, Liver Fluke and Cholangiocarcinoma Research Center, Medical Faculty, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
Ross H. Andrews
Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, United Kingdom
Ian G. Baird
Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America

Corresponding Author

Email: geoadz@nus.edu.sg

Competing Interests

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

June 25, 2013

Cuba Reaffirms Strong Ties With Laos

Cuba Reaffirms Strong Ties With Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v7/wn/newsworld.php?id=958243

VIENTIANE, June 24 (BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA) — Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez who completed a two-day visit here on Sunday reaffirmed his government’s commitment in furthering the strong relationship and cooperation with Laos.

Bermudez, the first vice president of both the Council of Ministers and the Council of State, held a bilateral meeting with his Lao counterpart Vice President Bounnhang Vorachit in Laos’ capital of Vientiane.

In the meeting, the two leaders exchanged ideas on regional and international issues of mutual interest, according to a Lao government press release.

Bermudez also met with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone to convey Cuban President Raul Castro’s invitation to him to make an official visit to Cuba at a suitable time.

Vorachit and Bermudez both expressed a strong desire to beef up their countries’ traditional relationship and close cooperation. Vorachit thanked Bermudez and the government of Cuba for their great assistance to Laos in the past, and their present assistance in national defense and development.

The Communist Party of Cuba was an important supporter of the Lao Communist Party during the Lao Civil War.

More recently, Cuba has cooperated in helping Laos to develop its agriculture, human resources, sports and health sectors. Last year, the Cuban government donated nearly 200 tonnes of sugar to Laos to help malnourished youth in the country’s rural areas.

The Lao Foreign Ministry described Bermudez’s visit as “one of the important events in Laos-Cuba relations” that has developed traditionally friendly relations to “a new height” for the mutual benefit of both.

Bermudez expressed his pleasure for having the opportunity to visit Laos, one of South East Asia’s least developed nations, to see the ongoing development of the country and the people of Laos.

–BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA

June 21, 2013

Laos farmers struggle with erratic weather

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Laos farmers struggle with erratic weather

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.irinnews.org/report/98259/laos-farmers-struggle-with-erratic-weather

June 20, 2013

VIENTIANE, 20 June 2013 (IRIN) – Hit hard by hot and dry weather, farmers near Laos’s capital are looking for new ways to adapt to climate change and protect their cash crops as the temperature in recent months rose above 40 degrees Celsius.

Khamphou Phanthaboun, the chief of an organic vegetable growers’ group in Nontae, a village in Xaythany District near Vientiane, said his vegetables are dying in the unseasonable heat.

“The bore well is dry so there is not enough water [for] the vegetables,” he said.

Weather experts say that irregular weather patterns since 2007 have caused the monsoon season in Laos, typically first seen in mid-May, to come as early as March or as late as June. This year, it came in early May after drought-like conditions left central and southern parts of the country parched.

A recent US Agency for International Development funded study on climate change in the lower Mekong Basin (including parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) identified climate change “hotspots” where conditions will become unsuitable for crops currently grown there. Two Lao provinces (Khammouan in the country’s centre and Champasak in the south) are both projected to lose crop yields.

The study projected higher-than-global average temperature increases in the basin (a 4-6 Celsius degree jump versus the global estimate of a two degree increase), which will mean “dramatic changes in the comfort zone of crops… which could have serious negative consequences for the livelihoods, health and food security of the local communities in these areas.”

Bounteum Sysouphanthavong, acting head of the Laotian government’s Weather Forecasting and Aeronautical Meteorology Division of the Meteorology and Hydrology Department, told IRIN temperatures so far in 2013 have climbed above the average high of around 31 degrees Celsius for this period.

Rainfall in central Laos, around Vientiane, has also been less than normal. From January to April, the region recorded just 92mm of rain, which averages 157mm during those months. The wet season started off slowly with 176mm of rain, almost 100mm below the average for May.

Manfred Staab of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Laos suggested affected farmers pursue crop diversification and water management.

Phanthaboun, who started growing vegetables in 1996, has struggled to adapt to drought-like conditions. Organic crops are usually in high demand and can earn up to three times more than those grown with chemicals. The recent weather, however, has cut his vegetable sales by nearly half. Friends in his village face similar issues, with many families’ cultivable land shrinking.

Since 2005, the government has encouraged farmers to abandon pesticides and chemical fertilizer to exploit a growing organic foods market.

Most of the 170 families in Phanthaboun’s village grow cash crops (including turnips, lettuce and Chinese cabbage), with about 130 families using chemical fertilizer. About a dozen families cultivate organic vegetables.

The Xaythany District, with a population of about 167,000, mainly produces crops for Vientiane’s markets, supplying some three tons weekly of organic vegetables.

In 2009, Khamphou began to have some success growing vegetables that withstood hot weather and pests after rotating his crops post-harvest. “If we grow the same vegetables in the same pot the whole year, the pest will stay permanently,” he said.

But years later, Phanthaboun’s group is battling ever more erratic climate.

With guidance from local agriculture officials, Phanthaboun built a greenhouse with special netting as roofing. “I tried to grow some kinds of vegetables in the house, but they did not grow well and died the same as if they were planted outside,” he said.

ppt/sk/pt/cb

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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