U.S. Ambassador to the UN Rome-based agencies Cindy McCain sees joint food, nutrition and resilience work in Laos
“The work of the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies is essential to address food insecurity in Lao PDR,” said Ambassador McCain. “Together with the Lao Government, the three agencies work to reduce hunger, improve learning and nutrition outcomes for primary school students, strengthen livelihoods of small-holder farmers, and bolster resilience of the country’s food systems. Conflict, especially in Ukraine, climate change, and COVID-19 have driven global hunger to unprecedented levels. The United States will continue to be a top contributor and supporter of the agencies working here on the ground and around the world.”
In Oudomsouk school in Bachieng Chaleunsouk district, Champassak province, Ambassador McCain saw WFP-supported school feeding programme. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a longstanding partner of the programme, currently supplying food commodities for daily nutritious lunches for 64,000 primary school children in 707 schools around the country.
In Champassak, the Ambassador had a tour of a WFP warehouse, which is part of the organization’s supply chain, used to store food supplies for the school feeding programme. An exhibition was held for the Ambassador on WFP’s work in food, nutrition, resilience and emergency response over the years.
“Our Country Strategic Plan for Lao PDR is greatly supported by the United States, with USDA financing the school feeding programme since 2008, and recently, the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance contributing to our work around resilience-building for Lao communities. As we gradually shift the school feeding programme to national and community ownership, we will continue counting on the U.S. for its critical support to children and their families,” said Jan Delbaere, WFP Country Director and Representative in Laos.
In the capital city Vientiane, Ambassador McCain learned about FAO’s role in sustainably transforming the Agri-food Systems and its Early Warning and Response in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and the current food and fuel crisis on vulnerable communities. She visited the Rice and Cash Crop Research Center, which develops new varieties, hosts the traditional gene bank and provides quality seeds to farmers in the country and abroad to learn about how tailored and climate-resilient technological solutions are important to the agriculture sector in the Lao PDR and beyond.
The Ambassador saw the development and achievements of a woman-led – and primarily female-membered – smallholder farmers’ cooperative of organic vegetable production. Thongmang Agricultural Cooperative is the main provider for high quality and safe food for the capital. With FAO support, the cooperative has received increasing support to strengthen its capacities.
“I am proud to see how our work with the Government for seed quality improvement and for ensuring production of safe, diverse and nutritious produce with communities is continuously growing and contributing to transforming the food systems in the country. As FAO proactively monitors the impact ofthe current food and fuel crisis, global efforts are needed to address these issues and we are pleased that the U.S. is supporting our efforts and recognizes the importance of this work for the food security and sustainable growth of the Lao PDR,” Nasar Hayat, FAO Representative to Lao PDR said.
The Ambassador was also briefed on the development and achievements of IFAD investments in the Lao PDR, focusing on food security, nutrition, and value chain development with market linkages. Such work contributes to the elimination of poverty and hunger in rural areas; transforming agriculture, local economies and food systems through investments; and creating more inclusive, resilient and sustainable rural economies.
How the UN system is assisting the Government in these trying times of global challenges and also the budgetary constraints domestically was discussed at a meeting with Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR. “The UN’s priority is to support the most vulnerable and marginalized in this crisis. Joint UN efforts such as the Programme on High Frequency Data, along with the data and evidence generated by the Lao Academy for Economic and Social Sciences, can inform policies and programmes aimed at tackling these challenges at hand,” said Ms. Sekkenes.
The Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an organization supported by the United Nations Development Programme in addressing the legacy of war with explosive ordnance disposal, briefed Ambassador McCain on the inherent challenges to food production in war-torn countries contaminated with Unexploded Ordnance.
Visits were also paid to Deputy Minister Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Dr. Vilayvong Bouddakham of Champassak Provincial Governor’s office.
Ambassador McCain will continue her journey to Cambodia next.