Farmers in Vilabouly, Lao PDR, will soon be growing Mundubbera citrus trees from Australia.
MMG LXML Sepon (LXML), which operates the Sepon mine in Vilabouly District, Savannakhet Province, is assisting Lao farmers to increase incomes by growing citrus trees.
"LXML is building new partnerships to improve incomes in communities close to the mine. This further demonstrates our commitment to assist the Lao Government alleviate poverty and achieve Millennium Development Goals," said Rick Watsford, General Manager, MMG LXML Sepon.
LXML is working with communities to introduce high-value agricultural crops and improve rice yields. These initiatives will help to improve livelihoods by creating sustainable incomes. Initial projections suggest citrus trees could generate up to 70 to 100 million kip per hectare per year.
This new partnership draws together financial support from LXML, marketing expertise from Australian firm, Business for Millennium Development (B4MD), and technical support from Ironbark Citrus. Ironbark has exported citrus fruit from Australia to South-East Asia for many years.
"We have decades of experience in the citrus industry, B4MD are experts at projects, and LXML has long ties with the local community, so together we will make this work. We are providing technical and marketing support to Lao farmers to make sure this is a success," said Ironbark's Sue Jenkin.
LXML and Ironbark planted 20,000 citrus seedlings for Lao farmers to plant on their own land.
"It was a brave decision for Lao farmers to try this," said Ms Jenkin.
Lao farmers access 'seed' capital from a community bank to buy seedlings. "Securing commitments from farmers and local government is the key to developing a sustainable business model," she said.
The goal is for the project to be completely managed by the local community in the future.
While the project is still in its early stages, the aim is for the model to be transferred to other countries to kick-start citrus industries. Other agricultural crops are also being considered for Vilabouly.
"None of the farmers can speak English, so I will need to learn Lao," said Ms Jenkin.
Farmers from Nahoy Village, Vilabouly District, learn techniques on how to grow citrus trees from Australian expert. (Photo MMG / Sisomphou Bangphaxay)