Representatives from SNV Laos share some of the achievements, outcomes, impacts, experiences and learnings from phase I of the Building Income, Independence, and Empowerments for Farmers (BIIE) project.

Phase I of the BIIE project ran from 2012 to 2014, and covered 6 districts in the Khammouan province and 3 in the Savannakhet province of Laos. The project, financed by The Rabobank Foundation in the Netherlands, aimed to empower farmers to make informed decisions and support smallholder farmer groups to link with functioning markets in order to improve income and livelihood opportunities. One of the main focuses of the project was capacity building of farmers and rice millers, including conduct of practical training and knowledge sharing.

Rural farmers have been empowered to access information that helped them leverage for economic opportunities and assisted them to better negotiate favourable trading conditions, resulting in potential increased income and decreased risk. Capacity building revolved around formation and strengthening of farmer/producer groups and miller associations, facilitating access to credit, and improving leadership and management skills. Additionally, dialogue between these producer groups, millers, government agencies, and other relevant stakeholders was supported by the project in order to improve the rice sector in Laos. The closing project workshop was well attended by a variety of stakeholders, and the level of cooperation between SNV, government partners, farmers and millers was evident.

Stakeholders visited the BIIE farmer group and exchanged experiences with them, while reporting the main achievements of the project over the past two years. Plans and proposals for phase II of the project were also presented to key stakeholders to inform them of the need to mobilize resources to finance the planned activities.