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ICA-AP-MAF National Conference on “Building up the Co-operative System in Laos”

The ICA-AP-MAF National Conference on “Building up the Co-operative System in Laos” was held from 11-12 November 2014 in Vientiane Capital in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Laos and funding and technical  support from International Co-operative Alliance Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP).

The conference was attended by more than 50 national and international participants including officials of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), ICA-AP and speakers from Co-operative League of Thailand (CLT), InternationalILO, Deutscher Genossenschafts-und Raiffeisenverband (DGRV) in Lao, Institute for Development of Agricultural Co-operation in Asia (IDACA) Japan, , Co-operative Academic Institute (CAI), Kasetsart University Thailand.

The co-operation, efforts and initiatives of MAF in organising this Conference is commendable as an appropriate representation from all the stake holders in the country ware ensured. There were officials from Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, National Parliament, Prime Ministers’ Office, Ministry of Industry and on the other hand farmers and co-operative members from various provinces were also present. Active participation by all the stakeholders will go a long way in realising a coordinated effort for formulation of co-operative law and policy in the country.

 

In a formal opening ceremony, Mr. Phoumy Phoumanivong, Director General of Department of Agriculture Extension and Co-operative, Chief Guest delivered opening address and declared the Conference open. He appreciated efforts and initiatives of ICA-AP in helping Laos to build the co-operative system in the country. Dr. Somnuck Thirasack , DDG of DAEC,MAF, Lao and  Mr. Balu Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-AP welcomed the participants on behalf of their respective organisations.

 

 Mr. Balu Iyer gave a brief introduction of the background, objectives and expected results. He also called for MAF to join ICA membership for exposure to and support of a world organisation of 120 years of credibility in the field of co-operative business development for sustainable socio-economic growth of the community. ICA has been engaging with MAF over the past decade to enhance income of farmers by building up a system of co-operative business. From 2004-2009, ICA-AP has promoted sustainable model of agricultural co-operatives in Laos, including training and workshops for women farmers.  We have  regularly invited MAF officials and farmers to take part in trainings on quality and safety management of farm products, fostering core  leaders to revitalize rural economy and  empowerment of rural women.ICA-AP has conceptualized this Conference on “Building up the Co-operative System in Laos” in order to take forward our commitment to help Laos to attain sustainable development by mobilising rural economy through co-operatives.

 

He also reminded the conference of engagement of LAO with ICA at political leadership level and said that in February 2012, H.E. Dr. Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Government of Laos attended the 9th ICA-AP Co-operative Ministers’ Conference in Thailand and stated that the government of Laos is committed to decentralisation of most development activities and has accorded high priority to growth of co-operatives in all sub sectors of the rural economy. We have conceptualized this project in order to help Laos attain sustainable development  by mobilising its rural economy through co-operatives.

 

Mr. Maurizio Bussi, ILO Director from Regional Office of Asia-Pacific also addressed the participants, talked about gender equality in co-operatives and 95 years of collaboration with ICA and the co-operative movement. He also said that “ let me join the call of Regional Director of ICA-AP to MAF, LAO to become member of the ICA.

 

Mr. Vitoon Naewpanit, President of Co-operative League of Thailand  and ICA-AP Board Member

also delivered speech and offered to support MAF in developing cooperative legal framework as well as business.

 

 

The conference discussions  covered issues at a local as well as regional and international level, experience from neighbouring countries, and expertise from international agencies such as DGRV, ICA, IDACA and ILO.

Mr. Kham Ouane Khamphoukeo, Head of Production Group Promotion, Co-operative and Agribusiness Division, MAF presented the country status paper on the Co-operative Decree and provided an insight into the progress and gaps thereof. The discussions and presentations from the conference will be used to further establish the legal and policy framework on co-operatives and take forward the PM’s Decree on Co-operatives.

CLT is one of the most successful co-operative organisations in the Mekong river area. Mr. Vitoon Naewpanit, President of CLT shared his experience and insight to develop the co-operative system in Laos.

The conference adopted a comprehensive approach to look beyond structure and towards the next steps in the development of co-operative business. It also discusses a value chain approach that looks at the links from producer to consumer. The Farmer Shop model developed by CAI, Kasetsart University show cased and explained to co-operators and government representatives the importance of a holistic approach. Further, given the close linkage between Thailand and Laos, the participants have been able to better relate to this presentation.

IDACA has worked closely with MAF and the farming community in Laos to enhance farmers income through the co-operative model of business. IDACA presented rich experience from a co-operatively developed country like Japan and added value to the conference.

DGRV is a Germany based co-operative organisation and also a member of ICA has been working in Laos to improve the economic situation of farmers and micro, small and medium enterprises; contributing to the development of a legal framework with regard to the co-operative system; supporting the setting up of farmers' cooperatives; and strengthening of member based organisations such as village banks and savings and credit unions. The country representative of DGRV shared his work, experience and also talked about need and requirement of a legal framework for development of co-operatives in the country.

The Regional Director of ICA-AP presented an international perspective on co-operative policy and legal frame work with focus on Asia and Pacific and ICA Blueprint and positioning of co-operatives as builder of sustainability in the light of recommendations of the 9th Asia-Pacific Co-operative Ministers’ Conference recommendations to establish enabling legal and policy environment conducive to the growth of co-operatives.

 

ILO Director discussed about work of ILO and co-operation in Lao PDR, ILO and Co-operatives,

Co-operative Legislation in the light of 2002 ILO Recommendation No. 193 and roles of government, workers’ org, employers’ org, and co-operatives and also explained some uuseful instruments of ILO.

Low levels of participation of women in co-operatives, especially in agriculture co-operatives is a critical issue and ICA is making efforts to establish enabling law and policies  for participation of women and farm labourers. Ms. Savitri Singh, Adviser-Gender Program and Communication of ICA-AP shared information/experience on inclusive law and policy enabling participation of women in cooperatives and recommended that woman of the household/member’s spouse and farm labourers should be inducted as members/associate members to derive benefit from the services of co-operatives.

 

Objectives of the conference

 

In view of considerable progress made by the country in the form of PM Decree on Co-operatives and have organised cooperatives, the objective of this conference is

 

·         To contribute in the progress of establishing co-operative system through enabling law and policy frame work in Laos.

·         To provide technical inputs for framing of Co-operative Law and Policy

 

Useful findings/results

 

Dr. Somnuck Thirasack , Deputy Director General of Department of Agriculture, Extension and Co-operatives ( DAEC),MAF was the Chief Coordinator of the Conference and presented following results drawn from the discussions and papers presented at the conference:

 

 

I.                    Lessons learnt.

 

Through presentations from ICA/ AP, ILO, Japan, Thailand and DGRV, the main lessons captured are as follow:

 

-          Lao PDR is ASEAN member, but is not ICA/ AP member;

-          Lao PDR doesn’t have Cooperatives law yet;

-          To be a cooperative member must accomplish with seven fundamental criteria, but, some of Lao farmers understand that when he or she is cooperative member is to only have access to credit from the bank that is wrong;

-          When father or mother become co-operative member automatically the family members are also cooperative member or associate member;

-          Gender balance in the co-operative must be considered;

-          Some countries integrate co-operative in the curriculum early in the primary school;

-          In the co-operative movement, the objectives are not only focusing on benefit, but also social and environment issues are to be considered;

-          Lao PDR recognizes the importance of cooperative, Thailand has 98 years of cooperative foundation, Japan 114 years and Germany 164 years of foundation;

-          The strong support of policy maker leads to facilitate the smooth co-operative movement.

 

II.                 Co-operatives partners.

 

Many countries have precious lessons with regard to co-operative movement that could be good references for Lao in setting up co-operatives.

       

-          Apply to be member or associate member of ICA in the near future;

-          Lao Government should collaborate more with ICA, ILO and other experienced countries in the cooperative movement;

-          Lao must capitalizes all of good lessons from experienced countries;

-          Dissemination of the decree 136/ PM and the two MAF decisions is a top priority in 51 Districts, 109 villages and step by step in other remaining Provinces and Districts;

-          Cooperate more with NPAs, NGOs and donors for drafting a cooperative law roadmap is a top priority;

-          Insist high authority to organize cooperative board committee as quick as possible;

-          ILO is willing to provide necessary instruments for Lao partners concern with regard to cooperative and

-          ICA/ AP, ILO, CLT, CPD, CAD, IDACA, KU, DGRV among others all are willing to help the cooperative movement in the Lao PDR.

 

 

Event start date:
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Event end date:
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Venue: Vientiane, Lao PDR