Hanging on to drifted hopes

Written by: Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst, UNDP Lao PDR

October 17, 2022

Mr. Maiy Khamsingsaward (left) and his wife, Mrs. Nuan, in one of their mushroom houses.

Aksonethip Somvorachit, UNDP Lao PDR

September 4th 2019- that date still remains deeply etched in the minds of a couple in Vapy District, Saravane Province. Mrs. Nuan, 54 years old and her husband, Mr. Maiy Khamsingsaward, 58, could vividly recall the day they lost everything.  

The village authority had announced that there would be a flood. But, little did they know that in less than an hour, all they had closest to them, were the only things they could save. They left their house with only the clothes they had on their bodies and a cow. They needed to immediately flee from the incoming water for their lives. 

Mr. Maiy pointing to the direction of the incoming flood.

Aksonethip Somvorachit, UNDP Lao PDR

Maiy uttered, “I saw all sorts of things float towards our direction. Fridges, motorcycles, you name it. We just fled immediately with our family to the highest ground we could find.”  

Nuan and Maiy are parents to 7 children and a 7-year old orphan for whom they needed to provide.  4 of them are married, while the others are still in school.  

They’ve been working for decades, renting a piece of land to do household farming. They built their hut in the middle of the land between two rice fields, with some chickens, ducks, pigs and cows roaming freely in front. They were 1 of 2 families from the village who participated in a course on mushroom farming back in 2017 as part of the Strategic Support to Achieve SDG5 in Lao PDR project. They were hopeful to find additional income for their huge family, and to save enough for that piece of land. By selling mushrooms they finally did. Motivated by the demand from the markets, they worked even harder.  

When the flood came, their mushroom house, and all that was in front of their eyes washed away. Nuan said with tears glimmering along the edge of her eyes, “I saw the tiny mushrooms drifting behind us. I was devastated. I cried at how helpless I felt” 

Whatever they depended on to go through each day was gone. What used to be their rice fields were left as a muddy land, and what they called home was in ruins. They had to get back on their feet. The challenge for them was below ground zero. All they had then was the space, but  all investements were gone. . They had put all of their savings into those new pods of mushrooms that floated away. 

To grow back the mushrooms, they needed hay. Nuan and Maiy went around to find jobs at rice fields for some money, as well as hay. Gradually, they pushed for the recovery of their lives and homes. 

The rebuilt mushroom houses of the family.

Aksonethip Somvorachit, UNDP Lao PDR

On our visit, the couple shared that with their minimal and limited funds, they could only produce according to their capabilities. By noon, they could sell all their daily mushroom harvests given the high demand in the local markets. Occasionally, villagers would even drop by their house to purchase some later in the day! 

These days, they could only supply within a small parameter and market size in their village. Their wish now is to have enough to expand, in order to go further beyond their village. Nevertheless, the fear still haunts them- what if the same terror decides to visit them again? 

As the road to the post-pandemic recovery continues, our relationship with nature should be at the core of building forward. The couple was about to hire help and expand their farm. They already began to see a spark of light at the end of that long tunnel. They have almost made it, but nature had to strike them down. Therefore, families and individuals alike, should have the access to sustainability without the added burden of such uncertainties. 


The mushroom growing training is a part of the Strategic Support to Achieve SDG5 in Lao PDR project which has the aim to enhance the livelihood capacities of poor communities in Saravane through support for mushroom growing and organic farming.