Thard village in Vilabouly District, Savannakhet has been chosen as the best of 13 rice producing villages for the 2013 wet season. A jury graded presentation and rice quality, and 4 villagers from Thard received a 1,000,000 KIP cheque for their sticky rice - displayed in all stages of rice production: seedlings, plants, paddy and milled rice.

The EMRIP-V project aims to improve the rice production in Vilabouly district in Laos. Funded by the MMG LXML Sepon mining operation (MMG), SNV works together with the Department of Industry and Commerce (DIC) to improve the livelihoods of some of the poorest of Laos’ rural population. All three partners have been very satisfied with the results thus far. "This is the first time that someone works on the whole value chain in Vilabouly", said Mr Martmanivong, Head of DIC.

The project started at the beginning of the 2013 wet season with 500 households in 13 villages. As a first step, the farmers received 10,000 kg seeds of the 'Thadokkham' sticky rice varieties (TDK-8 and TDK-11), which were developed by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute and had not previously been used in Vilabouly. The fresh seeds of these new varieties were thought to yield a higher harvest and better quality rice.

The project has also helped establish farmer groups, provide rice production technical training for farmers and study visits. For example, 13 farmers were trained by Kubota in using mechanical tools. Also, the Thasano Rice Research and Seed Multiplication Centre trained rice farmers in seed selection, land preparation, seedling transplantation, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting. Moreover, together with millers, a paddy buying standard was developed. Millers pay 2,000 KIP per kilogram for TDK paddy rice, instead of 1,800 for the traditional varieties. As a survey of a quarter of all households showed, with this harvest the average yield of the farmers that used the new TDK varieties increased by 25% (from 2,45 to 3,06 tons per hectare). The TDK varieties are not only more productive, but also taste better as they are soft and long-grained.

The head of the newly founded millers’ association, Mr Kavern Vernkeo, said: "One year has passed and we already see the changes: Farmers produce more and better quality rice. Millers have higher capacity. Everyone cooperates. We even dream of exporting rice to other provinces or foreign countries now."

Also SNV Advisor Thavone Siyaong is satisfied with the progress: "The farmers started from zero, they tilled the paddies like they did for hundreds of years. They had no information about modern production techniques. But now," he says, "the project members start to think in a more business-like manner and try to produce quality rice, which can be sold to MMG or on the market. "Next year, we want to work with 18 villages."