Prioritizing Sustainable Rural Development in Lao PDR and Thailand

June 13, 2016

Development in the rural region has been given more importance today than it was in the earlier decades. Back then, economic growth was mainly prioritized which caused an uneven development growth. But as the economy grew, it became apparent that rural development was just as crucial. Much of today’s population growth dynamics stem from rural areas; they are the source of massive migratory waves to the cities. They are either forced by needs or driven by wants in the hopes of fnding success. As they stand at the link between environmental conservation and development, these dynamics have created a need for rural development that provides infrastructure, services, training, technical assistance, and empowerment to assist the development of rural livelihoods that will support and sustain local cultures and environments. Rural development therefore needs the effort of the people themselves as well as their institutions. 

In  the  Greater  Mekong  Sub-region  (GMS),  Lao  PDR  still  belongs  to  the  Least Developed Countries (LDCs) even though it is very rich in biological diversity. In the last fve years, although the country is developing rapidly, without proper human resource and planning, particularly at the local level, it may lead to problems in sustainability of natural resources and environment occurring in many countries. Heading over to its neighbouring country, even Thailand’s frst national development plan over-emphasized on economic growth rather than sustainable development, particularly participation of the rural people. Natural resources and human capital expanded the production base-employment opportunities and national income, which largely contributed to the country’s increase in production and exports. However, despite remarkable success in economic development, Thailand is facing growing problems in degradation of national resources, environment, and social problems in the city as well as in the rural areas. Development plans today have been revised, taking into consideration the need to reduce economic disparities between regions by involving resources and the administrative capacity of local governments, and to encourage people’s participation in their own development. 
To address such pressing concerns, Mekong Institute (MI), in collaboration with the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) and the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD), developed and conducted a training program on sustainable rural development for Lao PDR and Thailand, in order to contribute in enhancing the participants’ professional capacity in sustainable rural development strategies and interventions.

The fve-day training program on “Sustainable Rural Development” was conducted last June 13-17, 2016 at MI Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand where 17 offcials representing eight agencies coming from Lao PDR and Thailand participated in the program.

The  training  program  was  composed  of  three  interrelated  modules.  Module  1  on  “Sustainable  Rural  Development  Concepts”  provided  an  overview  of  the  concept  on  rural  development  and  trends  in  rural  development  policies  and  interventions  in  current  various  contexts  including  national,  regional, and  international  levels.  This  module  introduced  the  participants  to  the  integrated and  multi-sectoral  approach  to  sustainable  rural  development,  emphasizing  the  links between  actors  for  development  of  the  rural  economy.  Module  2  on  “Local  and International  Issues  Related  to  Sustainable  Rural  Development”  highlighted  different issues,  challenges,  and  opportunities  related  to  sustainable  rural  development  in national, regional, and international level, including inequity alleviation, good governance, environmental protection, regional cooperation, and risk management. Participants gained a  better  understanding  on  how  to  identify  and  compare  the  aforementioned  issues, challenges,  and  opportunities  in  their  respective  working  areas.  The  last  module  on

 “Sustainable Rural Development Interventions and Planning” concluded the program which included the philosophy of suffciency economy of His Majesty King Bhumibol. In order to make way for constant improvements, examples of best practices were consolidated and processed to be transferable to other contexts.

A  feld  visit  was  made  to  Sum  Sung Non-Toxic  Vegetable  Group  which provided participants with new ideas that are  expected  to  be  applicable  in  their respective  countries.  The participants expressed  that  the  newly-gained knowledge and skills provided them with new concepts that can be applied in their work at home such as integrating ‘sustainability’ to their work, transferring knowledge to their colleagues and community, proposing for development projects, and better facilitation of their existing development work. They also committed to implement the rural development projects presented during the training program when they return to their home countries. 

 Photo by Ammarate  Thummakool

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