Written by Mekong Institute  

The Mekong Institute has been implementing the regional project entitled “Capacity Development Programme for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC” since February 2012. The project aims to promote the development of agricultural and SMEs sectors of the new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam, collectively known as CLMV. Farmers, small-scale producers and SMEs are the ultimate targeted beneficiaries of this project. Implementation strategies employed under this project are a) moving farmers from subsistence to commercial farming by introducing GAP and Postharvest Practices and promoting crop diversification and contract farming to raise incomes and reduce risks; b) promoting non-farm employment by promoting value-adding agriculture processing activities and the development of SMEs in rural areas; and c) promoting essential trade facilitation and business development services that increase access to good practices, markets, information, finance, and reduce transaction costs.  

The project employs modular training approach of which each training course comprises three progressive phases: a) Learn to do – a training course cum structured learning visit, b) Do to learn – participants are required to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their work with technical assistance and back-up support from MI trainers and resource persons and c) Share to learn – participants who have successfully implemented their action plans during the “Do to learn” phase will be invited to a synthesis and evaluation workshop to share their lessons learned and best practices and provide feedback to MI to improve the training program in the future.

Progress Report
In 2012, key outputs can be summarized as follows:

Component A: a) One modular training program on Good Agriculture Practices for 28 participants – 25 from CLMV and 3 from Thailand and China on cost-sharing basis; b) Youth Camp on Modern Farming for 39 agriculture students from 4 universities of CLMV; c) Regional workshop on Developing Viable Seed Industry for 35 participants from CLMV – in collaboration with ADB Institute.

Component B: a) Workshop cum Structured Learning Visit (SLV) on “Cross-border Value Chains of Cabbage from Lao PDR to Thailand” for 18 Lao participants from Champasack Province; and b) Regional Workshop cum Structured Learning Visit on Successful Contract Farming Models and Cross-Border Trade for 33 participants from CLMV.

Component C: a) One modular training program on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia for 24 CLMV participants and 8 Thai and Chinese participants – on a cost-sharing basis; and b) Five action researches on forming SME cluster and value chain integration in CLMV and Thailand and one policy brief.

Component D: a) Twenty three participants completed a ToT course on Trade Negotiation and FTAs; b) FTA guide for SME exporters developed.

Component E: a) Eight young researchers completed the first six-month training cycle of Young GMS Professional Program and 10 young researchers of the second batch are currently doing their learning projects at MI and expected to complete their training in April 2013; and b) Twelve masters’ degree students have successfully completed their research requirements under MINZAS and 10 research papers have been publishes as MI Research Working Papers.

Two planned activities could not be implemented in 2012 due to time constraints, i.e. one modular training cycle on Business Research and one Multi-stakeholder forum on GAP and Postharvest Practices. These two activities will be implemented in 2013.

2013 Workplan

The following activities have been planned for 2013

  • Improved Agriculture Productivity: Key milestones under this component include one modular training cycle on GAP and Postharvest Practices; four action researches on GAP & Postharvest Practices; a youth camp for forty young smart farmers on modern farming system; and an annual forum to promote regional cooperation and network on GAP and Improved Postharvest Practices.

  • Improved cross-border contract farming management policies and good contract farming practices. Key milestones for this component include a Structured Learning Visit for of Contract Farming practitioners (farmers groups, contractors and government officials) to good contract farming practices; field studies on cross-border value chains mapping and analysis on East-West and Southern Economic Corridors (EWEC and SEC); and field research/case studies on how smallholder farmers can benefit from contract farming and regional and global value chain integration.

  • Increased cross-border SME clusters and improved export network. Key milestones are one modular training program on SME cluster development and export consortia; one modular training cycle on Business Research and Market Intelligence; and a GMS Biz Network and Investor forum.

  • Increased FTA utilization by SMEs. Key milestones are one ToT program on FTA procedures; one workshop on trade policy development and trade negotiation; and Web portal development to facilitate information sharing and community of practices among public and non-state stakeholders on FTAs and related issues.

  • Enhanced GMS-focused research capacity of young GMS professionals. This year, 11 young GMS professionals will be participating in a six-month training and field research cycle. Twelve master degree students will also be recruited, under MI-New Zealand Ambassador Scholarship Scheme, to participate in a one-year research development cycle which comprises of training in research methodology, conducting field research as part of their theses requirements and participating in a research round table meeting.

The 2nd Mekong Forum will be organized on July 11-12 2013 in collaboration with International Institute for Trade and Development, back-to-back with MI Council Meeting. The objective of this forum is to provide a neutral arena for development practitioners and decision makers from public, private and civil society to have open dialogue and exchange ideas on how to promote equitable and inclusive growth in the GMS. The theme of this Mekong Forum is “Towards more inclusive and equitable growth, GMS”. The results of several researches under this NZAP project will be presented and deliberated at this forum.  

Challenges faced during 2012 implementation included a) Limited English proficiency among provincial government officials, SME and farmers leaders, b) Lack of supportive environment for participants to implement their action plan upon return to their original agencies, and c) Limited absorptive capacity of local partners acquiring and practicing participatory-centered training method and in localizing training packages.

To overcome the challenges, MI conducted two baseline surveys and capacity building needs assessments in the last quarter of 2012 to identify local partners who are committed to promoting agriculture value chain integration and SMEs cluster and biz network in CLMV, assess their capacity and develop intervention plan and strategies to build their capacity. MOUs have been signed with committed local partners to localize training packages and replicate MI core learning courses at provincial and border level. It is MI affirmative action to work with and through these local partners in the future to reach the critical masses of capacity building for regional development and cooperation.

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