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