The rice production systems of the Lao PDR have undergone dramatic changes in the last decade. These changes include cultivation of rice in the dry season and widespread adoption of modern rice varieties (MVs). These factors have contributed to a 53% increase in production-from 1.5 million t in 1990 to 2.3 million t in 2001- or an annual increase in rice production of almost 5%. These increases have enabled the Lao PDR to attain national self-sufficiency in rice despite a high (2.7% y-1) population growth rate (Shrestha 2002).
The Lao-IRRI Research and Training Project, established in 1990, was a catalyst for increasing rice production in Laos during the 1990s. The goal of the project was to assist the government of Laos in increasing rice production to achieve self-sufficiency on a sustainable basis. It had the broad-based mandate to improve rice production systems by undertaking research and to enhance the skills of the national scientists to support and undertake such activities. These activities were undertaken in collaboration with the Lao National Rice Research Program (NRRP). In a short period, technology packages were developed, consisting of 10 Lao modern rice varieties (LMVs) with improved crop management practices. The project also recommended the use of other modern varieties (OMVs) such as the Thai-improved RD varieties available from across the border (Lao-IRRI 2000). To assess the farm-level impact of these varieties and technology packages, a survey was conducted in three main rice-producing regions (Champassak and Savannakhet provinces, Vientiane Municipality) in April 2002. The results presented here are based on national-level data and the farm survey. In all, 240 households-with 80 households from each region-were surveyed.