Enhancing the resilience and productivity of rainfed dominated systems in Lao PDR through sustainable groundwater use

Agriculture sustains the livelihoods of the majority of people within Lao PDR. However most farmers can only grow a single crop each year on small plots of land that can be severely impacted by climate variability. The area under irrigation still remains very low and largely sourced from surface water. Groundwater development can potentially offer water on demand for crop diversification and intensification for food security and livelihood enhancement. Experience in the use of groundwater for irrigation in Laos is limited but could offer a great deal of promise if the main technical and non-technical barriers can be overcome and the available resources are adequately understood, appropriately developed and sustainably managed. The research is multi-disciplinary in nature to address the wide range of biophysical, socio-economic and institutional aspects of groundwater development and management. The project has 6 main components: 1) Development hotspots and resource potential; 2) Irrigation pilot trial evaluations; 3) Opportunities and constraints for agricultural groundwater use; 4) Groundwater governance and policies; 5) Sustainability assessments and modeling; and 6) Capacity building, training & institutional enhancement. The project is now into its third year and due to end in mid-2016. Elements of the research in each component are maturing and a steady stream of outputs and outcomes are emerging that meet the needs/priorities of the research users. In 2015 outputs will include tools and publications on the groundwater resources, papers on farmers perceptions on groundwater as a livelihood strategy, specialist trainings and numerous Lao student theses. At the national level greater recognition is being given to groundwater in Laos and this is in part attributed to this project.