17 MAR 2014
International Conference on Sustainable Agribusiness Foreign Investments in Laos
On 13 March 2014, the International Conference on Sustainable Agribusiness Foreign Investments in Laos: Opportunities and Challenges for Poverty Reduction was jointly held by Oxfam and the faculty of agriculture at the National University of Laos (NUOL) in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The conference aimed to promote dialogue between stakeholders in Laos and China on issues relating to agricultural foreign investments in the Southeast Asian country. It also aimed to find ways to address the issues effectively from the perspective of sustainable development and deliver policy recommendations on regulating agricultural foreign investments.
Ten representatives from the Laotian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC), Ministry of Natural Resourcesand the Environment (MONRE), and the District Agriculture and Forestry Offices (DAFO) in Luang Namtha Province, Phongsaly Province and Borikhamxay Province participated in the conference. About 30 other representatives from research institutes and non-governmental organisations in Laos, China and Myanmar also actively participated in the discussions.
At the conference, a range of issues about agricultural foreign investments in Laos were raised and discussed, including the lack of legal compliance by investors, the environmental and social impacts of the use of agrochemicals, the lack of technology transfer from investors, and possible policies and regulations that the governments of Laos and the investing countries should implement to promote sustainable, responsible, pro-poor and pro-equality investments in agriculture. Most participants found the issues discussed at the conference relevant and important. They exchanged information about markets where the key agricultural products are sold. They gained an understanding of the country’s agribusinesses and expressed an interest in engaging in further discussions and collaborations to promote corporate social responsibility in the agribusiness sector.
The one-day conference ended with a list of policy recommendations, including those calling for the following: long-term research on the impact of the agricultural foreign investments; initiatives to empower the local communities by sharing information about the agricultural market; stronger regulations on the use of agrochemicals; enhancements in the Laotian government’s knowledge regarding the foreign investors and corporate social responsibility; improvements in the investor countries’ understanding of CSR; better communication between stakeholders; and better conduct among investors. The goal is to establish a platform where countries under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can discuss research and other information related to this topic.
Agricultural investment in the Mekong region by larger neighbours such as China, Thailand and Vietnam has created both risks and opportunities for poor people. In March 2013, NUOL and Oxfam jointly organised the International Conference on Agriculture Foreign Investments in Laos (http://www.oxfam.org.hk/en/news_2091.aspx), and launched the Lao version of the research report.
International Conference on Sustainable Agribusiness Foreign Investments in Laos: Opportunities and Challenges for Poverty Reduction was held on 13 March 2014 in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The conference was jointly held by Oxfam and the faculty of agriculture at the National University of Laos.