Civil society organizations: Farmer organization
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Mr. Phonepasith Sotitham, Mekong Eden farm Owner
Om Phonepasith, a young social entrepreneur and farmer, started his ecological project, Mekong Eden Farm, in February 2016 on a piece of land in the jungle by the Mekong riverside. Om studied macro biology in Vientiane and nutrition in Poland for two years. After getting his bachelor degree, he worked for GIZ in Sayaboury Province where he started SuDHiCA in 2015. Sustainable Development for Highland Communities Association (Sudhica) was formed with the goal of improving the livelihoods of remote village communities in Sayaboury Province. Facing difficulties to access foreign grants in this province, he decided to move to Luang Prabang a year later to start Mekong Eden Farm, a farm and social enterprise. With the help of a small team and volunteers, Om manages to grow a great variety of plants from all over the world on 2ha.
In Mekong Eden Farm, a high diversity of vegetables grows along with fruit trees. Om grows nearly hundred species: local vegetables as well as western vegetables and even rare vegetables like physalis, purple sweet corn or red ogra.
Om is deeply committed in improving farmer’s livelihood and empowering rural communities through environmental education regarding sustainable agricultural practices. To better reach these goals, he started ALaCi, Agroecology Learning and Agribusiness Cooperation Initiative, a community based organization. ALaCi main mission is to be a learning center for local farmers who will receive direct support from the Mekong Eden Farm staff about any topic related to ecological farming. Om has already provided support to ‘Uncle Ed and his wife’ to generate household income through developing agribusiness initiative of organic strawberry home garden.
A big challenge for agriculture in general and sustainable agriculture in particular is to provide sufficient income for farmers to stay in their land. Therefore, it is important to assess economic sustainability of a farm as, amongst other indicators, the economic returns from agriculture should at least equal the income that could be obtained from off-farm activities.