The National Agriculture and Forestry Institute's Pha Khao Lao Agrobiodiversity Resource Platform was launched in September, with the aim of encouraging the protection of Lao PDR’s rich natural heritage.
Identified as one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world, Lao PDR boasts over 10,000 native varieties of rice (second only to India), 2,500 edible plants, 200 edible fish, 100 edible insect species, 500 non-timber forest products, and 1,500 medicinal plants. However, it is worth noting that this is a form of agrobiodiversity, as the ecosystems containing these resources exist through human as well as natural selection.
Agrobiodiversity improves livelihoods, promotes good health, and safeguards Laotian culture – especially its food – but Lao PDR’s agrobiodiversity systems are breaking down in the face of the adoption of industrial agriculture, commercialisation, and urbanisation.
To safeguard the country’s food culture, the National Agriculture and Forestry Institute launched the Pha Khao Lao Agrobiodiversity Resource Platform in September, with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and support from the Agrobiodiversity Initiative (TABI) and various other partners.
The platform, which includes video content, aims to ensure the conservation and continued use of Lao PDR’s rich natural heritage by sharing traditional knowledge and resources with students and entrepreneurs wanting to get started with sustainable agriculture.
Furthermore, the website is designed to generate interest in high-value, specialty agricultural products, encourage agricultural and culinary entrepreneurship, and link traders to consumers. In this way, Pha Khao Lao will stimulate a market for agrobiodiversity products, which will in turn create an incentive to protect Lao PDR’s many unique natural resources.