Organic Farming along the Mighty Mekong

A long stretch of road linking
several provinces of Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam forms the backbone of the so-called
East-West economic corridor. The population living along the corridor is among the poorest in the countries of
the Greater Mekong Subregion, or GMS. Agricultural production is
generally low hampered by the expensive traditional
farming methods employed and the farmers’ lack of knowledge about
innovative techniques and market opportunities. But things are slowly changing thanks to the long road that makes up
the corridor farmers now have an opportunity to
distribute their agricultural products over long
distances reaching large rich markets across GMs
countries. But better distribution is only half the
battle won. Adding value to agricultural
production through organic farming is also an essential
part of the strategy to raise income levels of local farmers.
Once a marginal activity targeting niche markets organic farming is now becoming a
mainstream business opportunity meeting the demands of a rapidly
expanding market. The Asian Development Bank is supporting
the development of this alternative agricultural
production along the East-West economic corridor to help farmers take advantage of this
growing economic opportunity. “This method that can be adopted easily by small farmers without the need for a big investment. Any household, any family can start this by dividing
their existing land. The demand for organic products is huge, not only for food but also as raw materials.” The so-called value chain concept was introduced to improve economic activities in the corridor. Value chains were developed by bringing
together producers collectors, processors, wholesalers, and
retailers into business clusters. And the East-West economic corridor has great potential to create a multiplier effect on the
economy, improving the living standards of the communities it connects. And local farmers are starting to see
the opportunities. “Growing organic vegetables initially did not provide good yield, but two or three years later it will bear nice vegetables and good yield. It also eventually helps my family to be food self-sufficient.” Landlocked communities along the thriving
East-West economic corridor are becoming land linked as they work
together to integrate their economies thanks to the roads connecting them.

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