The Lao government is collaborating with private companies to encourage residents in seven northern provinces to cultivate commercial crops instead of illegally growing opium poppies.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Security, General Vilay Lakhamfong said during the ongoing Ninth Ordinary Session of the Fifth National Assembly that more than 54 companies have been approved to participate in this scheme.
These companies are passing on agricultural knowledge and providing jobs to locals in 1,135 villages, benefiting 47,446 families under the Alternative Development Project (ADP) in Houaphanh province.
Under this project, locals have received 100 cows across 19 villages, bringing the total number of cattle up to 298. It also assisted in the import of 1,000 bottles of lotus flower medicine from Vietnam to help treat opium addicts in rehabilitation centers in the region.
To treat opium and heroin addiction, the Department of Treatment, Ministry of Health has observed the efficacy of methadone as well and plans to purchase the drug for medical trials in Viengxay and Huameuang district, Houaphanh province.
Additionally, this project has enabled the process of importing tools, equipment, and vehicles (including 30,000 urine drug test kits, two ambulances, 11 cars, four motorbikes, office equipment, surveying equipment, and GPS navigation equipment) from Thailand, South Korea, China, and UNODC to help law enforcement officials to combat the illegal trade of opium.
According to the Vientiane Times, a survey conducted from July 2021 to March 2023 in nine northern provinces of Laos revealed 4,493 illicit poppy fields, of which 1,437 were destroyed.
In 2021-2022, some of the contracted companies were able to supply 58,560 kg of crops grown under this project to the organization Marlongo France, which was valued at USD 276,654.