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Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Lao PDR is a landlocked Southeastern country. Its population is about 1.6 million (2012). The name of its capital is Vientiane. The country is divided into 16 provinces (qwang), which are further divided into districts (muang) and then villages (baan). 

Tourism is a fast growing industry due to relaxed style of living. There is significant dependence on donors’ assistance for economic development. The infrastructure is inadequate. Power is partially available in rural areas. Brain drain is a serious problem.

May to November is rainy season while the dry season lasts from December to April. The country is faced with environmental issues, in particular rapid deforestation. Agriculture sector contributes 51 percent to the GDP. About 80 percent of the population is involved in agriculture, and about 97 percent of the farmers are owners of their lands.

Under subsistence agriculture, about 80 percent of the arable area is used for growing sticky rice. Other farming activities include vegetable gardening, cash crops (mung-beans, soybeans, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and tea), rearing of animals (goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, water buffaloes and cattle) and growing of mango, coconut, banana, jackfruit, tamarind trees, and some maize. Hunting and fishing are popular.


Lao PDR has seen a number of extension approaches followed over the years. Until recently, various technical departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry had their individual technology transfer arrangements. However, since the creation of National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) in 2001, a comprehensive, unified extension service has been in operation. Assisted by a Swiss-funded Laos Extension for Agriculture Project (LEAP), the country has developed a consolidated extension approach called Lao Extension Approach (LEA). The LEA is supposedly based on the following principles: decentralized, pluralistic, participatory, needs-based, integrated, gender-sensitive, group-based, self-motivated, and sustainable. The extension services cover agriculture, livestock, forestry and irrigation.

The government is serious about developing an effective extension system in the country, which is evident from the plans to invest about $ 29 million by 2015 in the development of extension and relevant infrastructure. Local NGOs are non-existent. However, quite a number of international NGOs are active in agricultural projects in spite of rather strict government regulations. The Lao Extension Approach is being actively but cautiously followed but it still has to be expanded throughout the country which has diverse topography, microclimates and agriculture. Extension problems surfaced so far include a lack of competent extension generalists who can help start Village Extension System programs, and long physical distances between villages and between villages and district extension offices. Another problem which might arise later is the frustration of the production groups of farmers who would gain knowledge through Learning Projects of one or two seasons, but then will find no funds to start real-life projects based on the knowledge gained. A commendable feature of the extension service in Lao PDR is that unlike in most developing countries, extension staff is not given non-extension tasks to perform nor does it focus on increasing agricultural production because the thrust of extension approach remains educational.

Active donors include SIDA, SDC, World Bank and FAO. The SDC-funded project LEAP (Lao Extension for Agriculture Project), mentioned earlier, has been very significant in strengthening the extension services of Lao PDR. The goal of the project was to support the development of a decentralized, participatory, pluralistic and sustainable agricultural extension system that reaches male and female farmers equally. Phase I of the project started in November 2001 and ended in December 2004 while Phase II started in January 2005 and ended in 2007. 


Public Institutions
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

§ National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service

Extension services in Lao PDR are provided by the National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES), which is one of the departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Its offices are located in all 118 provinces and 141 districts of the country. Below the national level, there are Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (PAFES) offices staffed with subject-matter specialists, and District Agricultural and Forestry Extension Offices (DAFO) staffed with extension generalists called Farming Systems Extension Workers. There is no government extension staff at the village level, which is covered by the Village Extension System, explained later under the private sector section.

The government plans to invest about $ 29 million in extension by 2015. The investment will cover improvement of agricultural training centers, construction of seed storage facility, training of farmers, improvement of existing 216 Extension Centers as well as increasing the number of the centers to 500.

§ National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI)

NAFRI is the main source of technology generation in Lao PDR. It also undertakes some extension-related activities. In November, 2007, NAFRI and NAFES jointly organized a workshop to discuss the issue of institutional linkage. The institute’s main functions are carrying out adaptive research, developing methods, tools and information packages, providing policy feedback, and coordinating and managing research. The NAFRI maintains the Lao Agriculture Database, which contains agricultural and natural resources information such as research reports, policy documents, extension information and reference material.
Public universities and colleges

§ National University of Laos

The university has a Faculty of Agriculture.

§ Royal University of Agriculture

The university has a Division of Research and Extension and offers graduate programs in “agri-education for extension”.

§ Northern Agriculture and Forestry College, Luang Prabang

This is one of the five agricultural colleges in the country, all being under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Table 1: Human Resources in Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery and Rural Development Extension in Lao PDR as of 2009

Sector and staff

All Sectors

Public sector

Non-profit / NGOs

Others, like major projects






Agriculture (crops, livestock)





Total extension staff*





Female extension staff only





Support staff**










Total extension staff*





Female extension staff only





Support staff**





Fishery (Marine and aquaculture)





Total Extension staff*





Female extension staff only





Support staff**





Rural Development





Total Extension staff*





Female extension staff only





Support staff**





*Extension staff should include management


**Support staff: drivers, secretaries, financial and administrative staff, etc.  

Source: Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry Yearly Report 2010; National  Agricultural & Forestry Extension Service Yearly Report 2010

Non-Public Institutions
Private sector

The Lao Agricultural Master Plan 2011 to 2015 mentions in its Chapter 7 about cooperation with private sector for “embedded agricultural extension services” (e.g. supplier of agricultural inputs to provide training on how to safely and economically use agro-chemicals).

So far, however, there are no private companies as such involved in extension activities. But as the contract farming has become popular among farmers in recent years (due to lack of local marketing of produce), several joint venture companies have been contracting thousands of farmers for growing various crops. Two examples are:

§ Lao Arrowny Corporation: A Lao-Japanese joint venture that contracts farmers to produce Japanese rice for export.

§ Lao Agro Industry Company: A Thai-Lao joint venture that contracts farmers for the purpose of producing sweet corn.

Besides these two commodities, contract farming also covers tea, maize, soybeans, sugar cane, horticulture and rubber, which are grown in different provinces. Some companies are dealing in seed. It is obvious that the contracted farmers receive technical advice on raising good quality crops from the contracting companies

Village Extension System (VES): The VES is not public but informally private. As there are no government extension staff at village level, farmers select Village Extension Workers (VEW) from within the farming community. The VEWs are paid according to mutually agreed terms by the village community in cash, kind or labor. The VEWs, however, are not left on their own. The government’s district extension staff helps the VEWs through technical training and provision of information and extension and training materials. The VEWs help in organizing farmers with common interest into “production groups”, which is a misnomer because the focus of the groups is not on production per se but on gaining knowledge through ‘learning projects” which could be applied towards enhancing production. The total number of villages in Laos PDR is 11,000 while the number of farmers’ groups has so far reached 1,000.
Non-governmental organizations

There are no local NGOs in Lao PDR, but there is a considerable number of international NGOs. An on-line directory of international NGOs working in the country, prepared by the government, may be seen at International NGOs cover a variety of technical subjects. Names of a few relatively more active NGOs which have several projects in or related to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and community development in Lao PDR are given below:

§ CARE International

§ Health Poverty Action

§ International Relief and Development

§ Japan International Volunteer Center

§ Norwegian Church Aid

§ SNV Netherlands Development Organization

§ Village Focus International

§ World Education

§ World Vision
Farmers-based organizations and cooperatives

After a long period of collectivization, state cooperatives were dismantled. Active but informal associations of farmers now exist in the form of credit groups or small income-generation groups. Small farmers’ groups and agro-enterprise groups have been created mainly under donor-funded projects. The project LEAP (mentioned earlier) also helped in establishing production groups of farmers under the Lao Extension Approach.


Pre-service education is obtained at universities and agricultural colleges mentioned earlier. The National Agriculture & Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) comprises three Divisions to cover the functions of planning and cooperation, technical matters, and administration. The Technical Division has three Units, and one of them is Training and Development Unit (CETDU). The CETDU is responsible for capacity building and in-service training of extension staff based at national, provincial and district level.


According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Lao PDR was 64.56. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 6.99.

As mentioned in an earlier section, a database on Lao PDR agriculture and natural resources has been established at the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI). A National Agricultural Library Information System has also been developed . There does not seem much application of ICT to extension programs as mostly printed materials are being used. The National Agriculture and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) has an Information Systems Unit in its Technical Division.


Central Extension Training and Development Unit (No date; probably 2010). Introduction of the Village Extension System to Village Authorities; Tool Book for agricultural extension staff; Lao PDR National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service

Lao PDR National Strategy Team (No date; probably 2006). Agricultural Commercialization--A Strategic Direction for Farm Families to Overcome Poverty in Lao PDR.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (15 September 2010). Lao Agricultural Master Plan 2011 to 2015

National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (January 2005). Consolidating Extension in the Lao PDR.

Riska, G. (probably 1998). NGOs in the GMS (Great Mekong Sub-region) Involvement Related to Poverty Alleviation and Watershed Management; Lao DPR.

Schroeter, A. and S. Sixanoh (2005). “The Lao Extension System” in Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR published by the Lao PDR National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service; Pp. 191-198

Setboonsarng, S., P. Leung and A. Stefan (February 2008). Rice Contract Farming in Lao PDR: Moving from Subsistence to Commercial Agriculture. Discussion Paper No. 90. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute

Sharma, V.P. (ed.) (2006). “Lao PDR Country Paper” in Report of the APO Seminar on Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture held at Faisalabad, Pakistan; 15 to 20 December, 2006; Pp. 126-129

Siliphong, P. and T. Songbandith (2011). Consultancy report: Lao PDR. Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Stelling, A., J. Millar, P. Phengsavanh and W. Stur (probably 2010). Establishing learning alliances between extension organizations: Key learning’s from Laos. Extension Farming Systems Journal, Volume 5 Number 1-Research Forum; Pp. 43-51

Vannasou, T. (2006). “The development of extension in Lao PDR”. Published in Australasia Pacific Extension Network

Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (June 2012)
Edited by Burt E. Swanson

"Working together for the farmers of Laos

Effective linkages among stakeholders in the agricultural sector are necessary to bring about greater productivity and better livelihoods of rural people. The linkages between extension, research and farmers are especially important. Creating and maintaining these linkages has been a problem in many countries.

In Laos, the is committed to making sure that research and extension organisations are working together in an effective manner. In this respect, the most important organisations under MAF are the National Agriculture and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) and the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institution (NAFRI).

In November 2005, NAFES and NAFRI organised a joint workshop to discuss the issue of linkages. A number of practical recommendations came out of the workshop, including the creation of a joint working group on Agricultural Information Management (AIM).

At this website you can download the presentations made at the Research-Extension Linkages Workshop and read about the activities of the AIM working group. The site will also contain other information about how NAFRI and NAFES are working together for the farmers of Laos."

Public Sector

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, MAF -
  • National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service, NAFES,
    • Laos Extension for Agriculture Project (LEAP)

Public Research Institutions with Extension Unit

University-based Extension

Semi-autonomous Governmental Extension Organizations

Non-Governmental Organizations

Farmer Based Organizations

Private Sector Organizations or Firms

Related Resources

Sharma, V.P., editor (2006): Report of the APO Seminar on Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture held in Pakistan, 15-20 December 2003. Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo.
  • Lao, pg. 126-129

Consolidating Extension in the Lao PDR (2005)
Prepared by the National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service (NAFES) with support from the Laos Extension for Agriculture Project (LEAP)