Reaching the Poorest in the Lao DPR Requires Cutting Edge Approaches
Jacquelyn Chagnon

Rural Development Consultant
Participatory Development Associates




In the mid-1990s, the Lao government consciously began to shift its rural development focus towards the least advantaged, least accessible, and most war-traumatized districts of the country. In 2003 the Lao PDRs Report on the National Poverty Eradication Program identified through quantitative and qualitative measures 72 poor districts out of 142. Top priority was given to 40 districts. Almost all were in remote upland areas characterized by high ethnic diversity, low education rates, and inadequate outreach of government services. Decidedly, these districts presented the zenith of development challenges.

Drawing from her decades of professional development experience, the writer raises three critical challenges for reaching remote poor districts. First, how can the critical core of indigenous development professionals emerge in these districts, where education levels average 2-3 grades? Second, as many of the poorest districts are plagued by high levels of unexploded ordnance (UXO), can clearing methods be improved to meet popular demands? Third, with an underpaid, understaffed civil service core, what alternatives are there for providing basic health and education services in these remote, low population areas? For each challenge, the writer highlights some cutting edge approaches being tested in the Lao PDR.