Austrian support for food production in Laos

Bauer Group supplies irrigation technology for 2.8 million Euros, supported by an export guarantee from the Federal Government and soft loan financing through the Oesterreichische Kontrollbank

The Laotian Government is planning to irrigate up to 900 hectares of farmland in Vientiane using Bauer irrigation technology and a long-term loan supported by the Federal Ministry of Finance with concessional terms. One of the aims of this 2.8 million Euro investment is to demonstrate to farmers in Laos that modern technology can help them save water and energy. This is already Phase II of a programme launched in 2009 to increase the level of food self-sufficiency in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.

In 2009, Bauer Group was one of the first Austrian companies to start business in Laos through an OECD-compliant soft-loan project. At the time, Bauer delivered 16 Pivot irrigation systems worth a total of 1.9 million Euros, which were financed on the basis of an export guarantee by the Federal Government and a soft loan from the Oesterreichische Kontrollbank. This water-saving irrigation technology from Austria delighted not only the officials in the Department of Irrigation of the Agricultural Ministry of Vientiane, but also the governors of the various provinces, who all wanted to see such a modern system installed in their areas.

After two years of intense negotiations, the deal on Phase II of the project was completed, involving an order value of approx. 2.8 million Euros: „Following the provinces of Vientiane, Borikhamxay and Savannakhet, we will now install Bauer irrigation systems also in Saravan, Attapeu and Khammuan" said Maykong Phonephommavong, the Director General of the Irrigation Department, pointing out to the resources required for the installation of such an irrigation system, such as power supply and sufficient water supply.

Water – a finite resource

At the signing ceremony in Vientiane, Bauer’s Sales and Marketing Director Heimo Wiesinger emphasized that a responsible approach toward water as a finite resource for future generations will become increasingly important. „More than 70 per cent of the world’s water consumption is attributed to agricultural use. Therefore, it is important especially in agriculture to adopt a particularly responsible approach to water."

In Phase II, the Bauer Group will deliver pump stations that extract water from the Mekon River, Pivot systems, and Rainstar hose reel irrigation systems starting in mid-2013: „We intentionally selected different irrigation systems in order to give an understanding of these technologies and their meaningful use to the Laotian farmers. With these systems, we are securing the yield of a complete second harvest."

Preference to irrigation of food crops

„It is the primary focus of the government to enlarge the irrigated areas so as to increase the level of self-sufficiency and to carry out irrigation using primarily power-saving and water-conserving systems" , said Agriculture Minister Vilayvanh Phomkhe. The Bauer irrigation systems will deliberately be used not to irrigate rice but food crops such as coffee, corn, vegetables, sugarcane, and also pastures and meadows. These areas are owned both by private farmers and by the government.

Depending on the system, areas of 5 to 60 hectares can be irrigated. Since the terrain has in part not been made arable and is thus sometimes very impassable, and in some cases one even has to cross roads and canals, the Austrian engineers had to make strenuous efforts to install the systems and keep them in operation to achieve the 50 per cent reduction in water consumption over conventional systems".