Supporting livelihoods in Houaphanh through veterinary training


Villagers in Houaphanh province, Lao PDR, are learning to better manage their forest resources and gaining new skills in veterinary care, with the aid of the SNV REDD+ programme, under a project supported by USAID LEAF. Twenty people from four villages in Houaphanh were trained in veterinary practices earlier this year, marking the first activity SNV’s collaboration with its district and provincial counterparts aimed at reducing pressure on local forest resources by strengthening livelihood opportunities through improved livestock management and production systems.

In the initial training, ten people from the villages of Tinphou and Sobpeng in Xam Tai district participated, which was followed by a similar training from for ten additional people from Naheua and Naman villages in Viengxay district. Mr. Sengphet, a participant from Sobpeng village, spoke about the challenges of earning additional income to supplement his main livelihood activity of growing paddy rice, which is only enough to feed his family. “The main challenge of my village is the limited land availability for paddy rice expansion, due to the nearby Nam Xam National Protected Area and an increasing local population,” he said. As an alternative, his family also raises livestock, but their animals regularly die from disease. “I wanted to be trained to know how to raise and treat animals, so I can sell them and make money for my family. I am sure this training will help save our livestock.”

Many families in the area, like Mr. Sengphet’s, raise chickens for food, and between one and five animals such as cows or buffalos over several years to sell at the market, representing a long-term investment and a form of savings. In addition to their economic value for sale, livestock are valuable as labour in the fields.  If an animal becomes ill, disease can easily spread to others in the village, causing major impacts on local livelihoods. 

As a result of the trainings, participants gained new knowledge and skills about veterinary care, vaccine use, disease prevention, nutrition, and livestock health. After this initial training, participants joined a study tour to Khammouane province to learn lessons from other successful livestock programmes. They will now pass on their new knowledge and skills to other members of their communities at larger-scale events on animal husbandry techniques organised by SNV in each of the four target villages. These events will be delivered by the individuals who received the original training, ensuring that their new skills are propogated throughout the community in a process of ongoing learning.

Prior to the SNV intervention, livestock in this area were not generally vaccinated. In 2015, SNV will support the establishment of a vaccine shop in each village, providing a refrigerator for vaccine cold storage. Although initial funding will come from the SNV programme supported by LEAF, work is being done to engage the private sector to help fund this work going forward.

SNV’s livestock enhancement activities are part of a larger programme of field actions around Nam Xam in recognition of the close link between resource management and livelihood improvement, and its importance in the development of strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the forestry and land use sectors. The actions will also include the development of management mechanisms for Nam Xam National Protected Area.