If farming communities are to remain a viable and vibrant part of Lao society, rural youth need local opportunities to earn money, be creative and enjoy themselves. With this goal in mind, the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College (NAFC) recently hosted a scheme to promote entrepreneurship among students who will become future farmers, business people and development workers.
Called AGREE – ‘Agripreneurs for Green Rural Enterprises and Economy’ – the scheme involved a series of weekend learning events and a competition that generated many new ideas for small agribusiness that students could run when they graduate. The scheme started with 52 proposals in October and ended with 12 teams who presented their business ideas to a panel of judges on 21st January.
The judges awarded first prize of 6.5 million kip to three students who developed a plan for processing and marketing a herbal tea made from the flower of the butterfly pea (dok angsan). What impressed the panel, which consisted of prominent people from the public and private sector in Luang Prabang, was the prototype packaging, the financial calculations, and the confidence of the students. The second prize went to a team producing ‘five-star chicken’ (gai dam), while the third prize was awarded to students who developed a technique for growing off-season lemons.
The AGREE scheme has been implemented by NAFC and Enterprise & Development Consultants (EDC) with the support of two projects that are funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Those projects – The Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) and Support to the Reform of the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College (SURAFCO) – will now consider how to support some of the finalists who wish to put their exciting business ideas into practice after graduation.