Intensified Livestock Farming in Lao PDR: Human Health and Environmental Concerns

by Souphavanh Keovilay, Laos, ELP 2014
Written on July 20, 2014.

Animal husbandry is an important component of agricultural production in Lao PDR. Lao farmers have tradition in keeping different animals along side with rice cultivation. Traditionally, livestock are raised largely under low-input-low-output subsistent conditions, resulting in low productivity. Over the past decades, the demand of meat consumption has increased significantly and meat price in the markets has soared over the time. This induces livestock farmers to extend animal production and many farmers who live in peri-urban areas have transformed livestock production system by shifting to intensified farming system. The development is a good sign for both government and farmers themselves as the government is battling to achieve food security and poverty eradication targets while farmers are able to generate more incomes from the activities. However, the problems related to the intensified livestock farming have been emerging and these problems need to be solved promptly.

One of the urgent issues is to ensure the safety of meat products for consumers. Many livestock farmers and farm owners do not have a background in animal husbandry and still lack technical knowledge. Even though most large farms with advanced technology employ permanent livestock technicians and veterinarians, many smaller farms do not have these kind of employees work in their farms. All activities in the farms are decided and performed by farm owners. Some of these farms are found to have used excessive feed additives and apply veterinary drugs inappropriately. Worse, some farmers are known to have used a Beta-agonist for the purpose of increasing red meat in pigs. The substance can cause side effects in pigs and pose food hazards to humans. In fact, the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry had issued Ministerial Degree on Livestock Farming Technical Standards, which came into effect in February 2012, but the enforcement of the degree is not effective enough.

Environmental effects of intensified livestock farming are other issues that need to be paid greater attention. In the past decades, intensified livestock farming in the peri-urban area of large cities has expanded rapidly. Many of these farms were established long before the degree on Livestock Farming Technical Standard had entered into effect and most of them do not meet livestock farming technical standards because these were not checked and approved by related agencies beforehand. According to our physical survey, it can be observed that one third of livestock farms are located in proximity to the communities which generate unpleasant smell to local residents while some of the farms discharge untreated water to streams. As a result, local residents have lodged their complaints to concerning authorities and required an urgent solution.

So, how do we solve these problems and who is responsible for them? These questions must be answered and necessary measures need to be taken in order to deal with the problems fruitfully. From my perspective, the problems cannot be solved by individual actors and a collaborative approach is needed. Key government agencies should regulate livestock farming activities by enforcing existing laws and regulations on livestock production more effectively and it is important to integrate environmental issues into policy-making processes.