Evolution of the initiative
EMRIP recognised that the private sector and the public sector both have important roles to play in developing the country’s rice sector. The major constraints in the rice sector in Laos were the use of low quality and inadequate inputs by the farmers; poor farming practices and poor post-harvest handling by both farmers and millers.
The local rice mills are the ones with highest leverage in the 4 rice value chain. Their position in the value chain is such that they are best in unblocking these key constraints to increase productivity. The project has worked with 21 progressive and socially committed millers who have strong and mutually respectful relationships with small-holder rice farmers. Each participating miller provides quality inputs, credit and training to approximately 1,000 producers, allowing them to increase productivity, unblocking the key constraints to rice production in Lao PDR. In return for investing their time and money in small farmers, millers received project support to improve milling facilities and equipment. Improved milling efficiency and higher quality rice further increased the amount of rice available in Laos while improving profitability for farmers and millers and greater stability of supply of good quality rice for consumers.
The rice mills participating in the project have taken a lead role in forming miller groups in their respective districts and provinces following the Khammouane Development Rice Miller Group as a role model. There has been almost a proliferation of miller groups, with a total of 14 miller groups with 261 mill members now operating across five of six target provinces. Most convincing are the five miller groups in Khammouane Province. All 85 members of these miller groups have already started applying the EMRIP approach in creating and working with farmer networks. The number of farmers these millers are linked with and their trade volume is not included in this case study.
Government also has played an important role in facilitating and supporting the development of the rice sector. The role of government is mainly creating an enabling environment for the market actors in the rice value chain. Responsibility for rice production and milling is split between different government departments, and there is no forum to bring all stakeholders together to discuss policy issues facing the rice industry. The main government partners at province level are the Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Industry and Commerce.
A “bottom-up” approach to policy formulation has been implemented, starting with multistakeholder meetings in the target provinces and which has then been followed by national level meetings.