Broom Grass: Participatory Selection

January 12 2018: We successfully conducted our first broom grass workshop at the Northern Agricultural and Forestry College (NAFC). With the active participation of broom collectors (students with experience in collecting broom grass, from diverse regions and ethnic groups in northern Laos), broom-makers (associated with projects run by TABI), trader and officers from the District Agriculture and Forestry Offices. Participants evaluated diverse samples of broom grass from our collection and provided information about the characteristics of broom grass that each actor in the market chain believed were important. The workshop opened by Dr Outhai Soukkhy (NAFC) and Dr Nahuel Pachas (the University of Queensland) on behalf of ACIAR project FST/2012/041. Dr Pachas briefly summarized the work carried out during the project which included the germplasm collection, market chains study and semi-structured surveys to farmers and traders.

Participants visited the germplasm collection, ranked a diverse sample of 10 clones based on broom and plant characteristics, described important traits for each actor in the market chain, and identified the most promising clones of the entire collection. In the afternoon, the results were summarized and discussed. Many of the participants were pleasantly surprised by the performance of some clones and highlighted the importance of accessing improved materials. The best clones identified through this participatory selection process will be multiplied (both by seed and vegetatively) for distribution to development partners such as TABI, and to farmers and traders.

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Train-the-Trainer: DAFO staff learn about teak silviculture

January 15-17: the Upland Agriculture Research Center (UARC) hosted at three-day training course on teak silviculture and management. This course provided training to extension officers from the Luang Prabang District Agriculture and Forestry Offices (DAFO). Eighteen officers from nine districts (Luang Prabang, Xieng Ngien, Chomphet, Pak-ou, Pakxieng, Phonxai, Viengkham, Ngoi and Nan) participated in the course. Training was provided by Mr. Shompahn Sakanpeht and Mr. Kikao from (UARC) and Dr. Nahuel Pachas from the University of Queensland.

Information provided during the course was developed primarily from research conducted under ACIAR project FST/2012/041 and FST/2004/057 and summarized into the extension booklets and a teak silvicultural manual. This material available in Lao and English languages (see publications page). The DAFO officers were provided with copies of these training materials, and other resources required to run training programs in each of these nine districts. It is anticipated that the DAFO extension officers will conduct training in at least 5 villages within each district, providing small holder farmers with the information need to effectively manage their teak woodlots and agroforestry plots; reaching over 900 households throughout Luang Prabang province.

Practical guides to the management of teak available in the Lao language

Preparation and printing of 4 extension booklets in the Lao language has now been completed. These booklets provide practical information extension officers and small-holder farmers to allow them to establish high quality teak woodlots and agroforestry plantings in northern Laos. Previously, there had been no reliable information on the most appropriate establishment and management of teak in northern Laos, available in the Lao language. It is aniticpated that these booklets will contributre to improved management, leading to faster growing and high value tree crops, and ultimately improved small-holder livelihoods.

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Booklet one provides an overall summary of teak silviculture from planting through to the first commercial harvest (around 12-15 years after planting), and is targeted at the District extension officers. Booklets 2, 3 and 4, are designed for distribution to small-holder farmers, and provides the basic information that farmers require to plan, establish and manage teak in woodlots or agroforestry systems, to produce fast growing trees of high quality. A silvicultural manual is also being prepared in the Lao language for distribution to the District staff. It is expected that this manual will be finalised in early 2018, and provide for the first time, comprehensive information on all aspects of teak silviculture in the Lao language.

These booklets can be downloaded (as pdf documents) from the publications page.

Teak from above

Images of Luang Prabang teak woodlots and agroforestry plantings – an aerial view, gives a unique perspective on the importance of teak to small-holder famers in northern Laos. Dr Nahuel Pachas captured these images during a visit to Luang Prabang in November 2017. The videos can be viewed by clicking on one of the following links: Teak Plantation in Luang Prabang – A small-holder tree bankAgroforestry trial plots in northern districts of Luang Prabang; or Teak Nelder Wheel Experiment.

Tissue Culture Success!

The first plants of teak produced tissue culture in Laos were planted on June 1 2017, as part of a tree planting ceremony at the Souphanoung University and the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College in Luang Prabang. These trees are demonstrating excellent growth and form, compared to trees of teak grown from seed or from stumps. Pictured above are Dr Mark Dieters and Dr Outhai Soukkhy (top left), Ms Chansouk Keokhamphou, and Ms Bounmyly Duangmany, Mrs. Pazeun Bouaphakeo (top right) in November 2017 with 4.5 month old teak trees grown from tissue culture. Tissue plants after being transferred to nursery (bottom left) at Souphanouvong University. Teak plants in tissue culture laboratory at Napok (near Vientiane), with Mrs Souphathay (bottom centre and bottom right).

The tissue culture work is currently being ramped up, with a plan to produce around 20,000 teak plants from tissue culture for distribution to farmers via the District Agriculture and Forestry Offices for planting in 2018.

1st Year Students in the Nelder Wheel

The academic year started 2 weeks ago at the Northern Agricultural & Forestry College (NAFC), a partner organisation with the LATARP project. Already, the deputy director, Dr. Outhai Soukkhy is introducing 1st year students to agroforestry.

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1st year students pose with Dr Soukkhy (3rd from top left) and Rachel Olsen (centre). Rachel is an AVID volunteer working to develop a tissue culture facility.

Today, the students were involved in ‘chopping and dropping’ weeds and grasses around teak trees at the NAFC nelder wheel. The resulting cut grasses make excellent mulch which is crucial to preventing moisture loss during the upcoming dry season.

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The students are enrolled in a 3 year diploma and can pick from 4 majors (Livestock, Agronomy, Forestry or Agri-business). More information on the NAFCs program and its ongoing Swiss supported reform strategy can be found here: NAFC website.

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The nelder wheel is a crucial aid for the ongoing education and research program conducted by LATARP. The partnership with organisations such as the NAFC is essential to further disseminating results and forestry best practices. A tour to the nelder wheel and the NAFC is part of the upcoming 2016 Teak workshop.

ACIAR Teak Workshop – 2016

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In just over a month, Luang Prabang will be holding an ACIAR Teak Workshop. Guests and researchers from around the world will come to discuss development and education strategies for improving smallholder Teak woodlot production and profitability. The workshop will conclude with a short tour of nearby woodlots and processing sites in Luang Prabang province.

Information for attendees can be accessed here. PDF downloads of the presentations and discussions will be here as they become available.