Mekong Institute (MI) organized completion workshops of the Regional and Local Economic Development in East West Economic Corridor (RLED-EWEC) Project on October 10, 15, and 16 in Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, respectively. Each workshop drew over 100 key stakeholders comprised of government officials, concerned agencies, local partners, and project beneficiaries including farmers, enterprises, and business associations.
Serving as the last leg of the said project, the workshops had a three-fold objective of (i) reporting the key results and achievements of the project; (ii) providing recommendations for scale-up and sustainability; and (iii) celebrating collaborative partnerships among all concerned stakeholders. Presentations from relevant partners also covered the experiences, best practices, challenges as well as lessons learned throughout the project’s six-year duration (2013-2019).
At the completion workshop in Myawaddy, Mr. Saw Htain Linn, Pha Lu Gyi village tract leader, stated how the project has instilled solidarity among farmers. “We are thankful for the knowledge, equipment, and storage facilities that MI provided. Not only did it improve our on-farm production, harvest, and post-harvest management, it also taught us to work together,” he said referring to the farmer group formation and capacity building initiatives of the project. Microfinance Delta International Co. Ltd. (MIFIDA) also commended the project’s sincerity for its beneficiaries: “When MI approached us to become a microfinance partner, they did not attach any conditionality or business interest to it; the proposed seasonal loans reflected the actual needs of farmers based on their flow of income and paying capacities,” said Ms. Than Than Swe, MIFIDA Regional Manager of Kayin State. Moreover, the Myanmar government acknowledged the impact of joining forces on such initiatives. As State Ministers Mr. Than Naing and Mr. Saw Myint Oo remarked in their speeches, the project testifies to the invaluable cooperation and commitment of everyone toward uplifting the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
Speaking at the completion workshop in Lao PDR, Khammouane Vice Governor Mr. Bounmy Phimmasone reiterated the local government’s commitment to carrying forward the project achievements on rice value chain development and cross-border trade facilitation (CBTF) of agricultural products. “We shall continue to promote the good agricultural practices (GAP) and good manufacturing practices (GMP) as introduced by the project. It is a stepping stone for meeting quality standards and market demand as well as optimizing benefits and opportunities for the rice industry in the province,” he said. Mr. Phimmasone also encouraged Khammouane and Savannakhet – as two of the national rice production hubs – to collaborate and support each other in order to boost rice commercialization. This was echoed by Mr. Valiya Sichanthongthip, Director of Provincial Department of Planning and Investment in Savannakhet, who mentioned the province’s plans of integrating rice value chain key actors into an SME development project alongside increasing rice exports.
With the linkages established by the project, Mrs. Phouthamath Sayyabounsou, National Program Officer of SDC, applauded the positive results on agricultural development which, according to her, is among the key thrust areas of their Strategic Plan 2018-2021. Mr. Hanh Chanthalangsy, head of GAP farmer group in Ban Dongtai, Thakhek District, also expressed appreciation of the project: “We now have better yields, lower costs of production, and favorable rates with rice millers – things we could not have done alone.”
The final installment of the workshops was held in Dong Ha City, Quang Tri Province in Vietnam. Mr. Nguyen Quan Chinh, Vice Chairperson of Quang Tri Provincial People's Committee (PPC), expressed appreciation of the project contributions especially on improving the socioeconomic environments for farmers and SMEs as well as strengthening capacities of Quang Tri government officials. He also pointed out how the project facilitated more efficient and streamlined cross-border trade procedures through the Business to Government (B2G) dialogues, which informed local leaders on their decision making and implementation of provincial action plans for furthering CBTF. All stakeholders including Agribank, Binh Dien Fertilizer Company along with coffee and rubber farmer groups committed to continue the Quadripartite model and other interventions even after project completion. The Quang Tri PPC also awarded certificates of merit to MI Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, RLED-EWEC Project Director Ms. Jutamas Thongcharoen, and Project Team Leader Mr. Nguyen Nhat An for their contribution and support to Quang Tri and its communities.
Gracing the three completion workshops, Dr. Watcharas Leelawath recognized all stakeholders and partners who have been instrumental in implementing mechanisms that supported each of the project sites’ goals. He gauged the achievements of the project as a collective effort, in which he underscored the need for continued cooperation to ensure sustainability of the initiatives. He concluded on a positive note by translating project completion – not as the end of the road – but rather as a crossroad paved with collaborative relationships and opportunities.
The RLED-EWEC Project was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Anchored on the goal of more inclusive and equitable growth in the GMS, the project supported the value chain development of the maize sector in Myawaddy, Myanmar; rice sector in Khammouane and Savannakhet Provinces, Lao PDR; and coffee sector in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. It also included a component on cross-border trade facilitation among the provinces along the EWEC. To read and look back on the project milestones and country-specific activities, please visit https://cutt.ly/Yeswhl2