New roads pave way to improved livelihoods in rural Lao PDR

26 May 2011

image Timchai and villagers from Hor Kong head to the market on their new road. (Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Philippe Pernet)

These days, Timchai, a farmer in the southern Lao province of Saravane, can make it to the market to sell her produce whatever the weather, thanks to a new village road built as part of an initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In the past, during the five-month long rainy season,Timchai would often lose money when the track connecting her village to the main road was impassable and her produce would rot before she reached the market.

“With this road I can bring more of my coconuts, watermelons and pumpkins to market,” says 37-year old Timchai who lives in Hor Kongvillage. “Since the road was built I’ve got more income and bought books andschool uniforms for my children.”

Hor Kong’s new road is a result of a funding and developmenteffort that gives planning and spending power to districts, helping them carryout small scale infrastructure projects - such as roads and school constructionand water supply improvements - based on consultations with residents.

The 70 percent of the country’s population living in ruralareas can also use the new roads to reach government services such as thenetwork of 11 ‘One Door’ centres where individuals can complete formalities forbirth and marriage certificates, vehicle registration, business licenses, andland titles.

“The easily accessible services have encouraged businessgrowth and entrepreneurial activities here,” says Bounsi Saypaserth, head ofthe One Door centre in nearby Sekong town, explaining that the documentationavailable at the one stop shops help local residents qualify for bank loans,which they can use to start their own business. 

The District Development Fund that enabled the Hor Kongroad-building and the One Door centres are part of a four-year joint programmeon Governance and Public Administration Reform supported by UNDP, the EuropeanUnion and the UN Capital Development Fund.

Since 2006 the Fund has invested in some 286 projects withan average cost of US$14,000 per project.