Laos is a mountainous landlocked country, but does have assets for its development. For the past ten years or so, it has had a steady growth rate, bolstered by substantial mineral, hydroelectric and agricultural resources. AFD mainly operates in the rural sector and heritage development.
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Statuettes, Laos
AFD and Laos: Supporting rural development and developing heritage
Statuettes, Laos

Supporting rural development

Coffee shoots Laos

Supporting rural development

Eradicating poverty is a Government priority. AFD is a leading partner in the sector. It combines support for public policies and field actions, infrastructure development, and capacity building for local actors. The objective: increase agricultural production, its quality, and improve living conditions for populations.

Our action:

  • Promote agroecological practices in the mountainous Northern regions via the Northern Uplands Development Program (NUDP).
  • Promote the development of organic and fair-trade coffee production. On the Bolaven Plateau, our support to the industry and to small producers has significantly increased the incomes of 1,800 families. 
  • Rehabilitate infrastructure and set up participatory irrigation management in the agricultural region of the Kata River.
  • Develop agricultural activities, livestock farming and fishing for populations on the Nakai Plateau, who were displaced following the construction of the Nam Theun 2 Dam. 
  • Support the agroecological transition at regional level (Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam). In response to soil erosion, pressure on forestland and dependence on agricultural yields, we offer sustainable economic, social and environmental solutions for agriculture. 
  • Promote Geographical Indications (Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam) by defining legislative frameworks and strengthening production sectors. In Laos, Little Chick Rice and Bolaven Coffee are labelled.

Preserving heritage

Ho Prabang, pagoda of the royal palace, Luang Prabang, Laos

Preserving heritage

Laos was for a long time left out of tourist routes. Yet the country has an enormous wealth of heritage. The number of tourists has risen from a few hundred in the 1990s to almost half a million visitors in 2016. This attraction is both an opportunity for local economic development and a threat to the preservation of sites and landscapes. Back in 1998, AFD launched operations to preserve the heritage of Luang Prabang, the former capital in Northern Laos. Since 2012, we have also been supporting the restoration of the Khmer temple in Vat Phou-Champasak.

AFD is assisting the authorities in achieving a balanced management of the listed sites in Laos. These operations are developed and implemented in coordination with the decentralized cooperation of the city of Chinon and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Supporting the NGO network

Rice paddy, Laos

Supporting the NGO network

The NGO network is extremely active in Laos. AFD is providing its financial support to seven of them for projects in various sectors: 

  • Aide Odontologique Internationale: improving oral health by distributing iodized salt. Capacity building for dentists and practitioners. 
  • Handicap International: clearing mines on affected sites to reduce the number of victims of anti-personnel mines, sensitizing Laotians to the risks of mines and providing assistance to victims. 
  • GRET: developing a national strategy for Houaphan bamboo processing. Strengthening farmers’ organizations and the technical services which advise producers.
  • CCL: Supporting the most remote ethnic communities in Phongsaly and Luang Namtha, particularly women and children. 
  • Tetraktys: involving communities in ecotourism development at the Konglor Cave in Khammouane Province. 
  • SFE: developing agricultural, health and hygiene projects on water, nutrition and education in Sekong Province.
  • AgriSud: strengthening the skills of populations in Viengkham District to combine natural resources production, management and protection. 

Anticipating the future

Vegetation, Laos

Anticipating the future

AFD is keen to anticipate the future as much as possible and also operates in the water, health and biodiversity sectors: It operates alongside:

  • The Mekong River Commission (MRC), which is responsible for the dialogue between countries in the region for the management of the Mekong, which provides a livelihood for some 65 million inhabitants;
  • The Institut Pasteur in Laos and its first European-standard laboratory, as well as the ECOMORE project, based on the transmission of vector-borne diseases, particularly malaria and dengue fever; 
  • WCS or Wild Conservation Society to conserve biodiversity and include populations in protected areas management;
  • Local banks via the ARIZ guarantee, a risk-sharing tool to encourage lending to small and medium-sized enterprises and microfinance institutions. AFD has so far worked with the bank Franco-Lao (BFL) and ARIZ has facilitated some EUR 4m of loans to SMEs.

Laos is today still classified among the least developed countries (LDCs). 

Its small population (6.4 million inhabitants), landlocked situation, mainly mountainous profile and turbulent history throughout the 20th century slowed down the country’s development up until ten years ago. 

Yet Laos does have assets: substantial mineral and hydropower resources, low agricultural production, but very distinctive farmland and a political will to stand out for product quality. Its agricultural sectors often have organic certification and the policy to preserve its archeological sites pays attention to the integration of neighboring populations. 

However, there are a number of challenges: reconcile development with natural resources protection, ensure the sustainable development of cities, and promote rural development for the 65% of the population who work in the agricultural sector.

With the exceptional growth rate of 7% experienced by the country for the past 10 years, Laos needs to stay the course for harmonious development. 

AFD has been operating in the country since 1994. It pays particular attention to rural populations and NGO networks, which are already active in the field.

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This map is for illustrative purposes only and does not engage the responsibility of the AFD Group
Funding type


  • Hunger and Food Security

Funding type

  • Grant


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The Mekong : the challenges of common management

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