IN an extraordinary example of applied capacity building, Australian businesswoman Susie Martin is leading the way in helping one of South East Asia’s poorest countries set about improving its food production systems.
Located near Luang Prabang in northern Laos, the Laos Buffalo Dairy has been established with the aim of developing the nation’s abundant, but underutilised buffalo resource.
“It’s not just that children that look four or five years old are actually 10, but the impact malnutrition has on mental development,” Ms Martin said.
“Stunting is a really big problem and obviously has major implications for society as a whole.
“The aim of this farm is to improve the rural prosperity, welfare, nutrition, and health of the local population.
The farm’s ambitious objectives are not without their challenges. Laos’s buffalo herd are primarily ‘swamp’ buffalo, which are generally smaller in size and produce a only few litres of milk a day.
Genetics from Murrah buffalo, which can produce about 10 litres of milk a day, are being used to increase the size and productivity of the local herd.
“It’s a good arrangement,” Ms Martin said.
“The farmers bring in their cows and we cross them with the Murrah bulls we were able to source from Thailand.
Biosecurity is also a priority, which is not surprising given foot and mouth disease and a range of other diseases are endemic in Laos.
In the longer term, Ms Martin said the objective was for the local people to have acquired the management skills needed to take over the running of the farm.