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Issues concerning the adoption of direct seeding mulch-based cropping systems in Southern Xayabury, Lao PDR

Tran Quoc H., Tivet F., Khamxaykhay C., Keodouangsy C., Séguy L.. 2006. In : Towards Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems in Mountainous Regions, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 07-09 march 2006. s.l. : s.n., 9 p.. International Symposium on Towards Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems in Mountainous Regions, 2006-03-07/2006-03-09, Chiang Mai (Thaïlande).

Since the 1990s, in the southern districts of Xayabury province in the Mekong corridor, traditional farming systems have changed through extensive agricultural development based on cash crops. This development, by way of intensification, depends on local market accessibility, transfer of technologies from Thailand and the increasing financial capacities of local enterprises. Thai inputs, heavy mechanisation and technical skills are imported and cropping is largely opportunistic, following Thai market demand. Due to its low labour requirements and high labour productivity, maize is widely sown and spreads to new areas every year (more than 15,000 ha was sown in southern Xayabury in 2004), while crop rotation tends to be abandoned. Land preparation, based on burning residues and ploughing on steep slopes, has allowed for cultivation of large upland areas. As a result of this development, combined with land allocation and increasing population density, fallow periods are disappearing. Such 'resource-mining' agriculture generates land erosion - leading to destruction of roads and paddy fields - and is also responsible for fertility loss, yield decline and chemical pollution. To rehabilitate the areas most degraded by these practices, combinations of multicropping, animal husbandry and off-farm activities can provide a balanced distribution of farming activities over time and space. Such strategies reduce climatic and economic risks in a fragile ecosystem. In light of this, the Lao National Agro-Ecology Programme has implemented a holistic research approach which emphasises generation and adaptation of direct seeding mulch-based cropping (DMC) systems with village communities and groups of smallholders. From a large range of technologies that were tested, maize production using direct seeded grain on former crop residues under no-tillage systems has been implemented. Results achieved under various conditions are presented in this paper: yields, labour inputs, costs, net income and labour productivity are all observed. Positive results are evident from DMC on residues. Despite agronomic and economic successes, however, various constraints limit the dissemination of these systems. A gender-disaggregated survey was carried out with all groups of smallholders to identify the main constraints of this first level of DMC systems on residues. The major limiting factors appear to be: i) drudgery of labour for land preparation, so limiting cultivated area; ii) access to inputs (market and financial constraints); iii) problems of appropriate equipment for sowing; iv) technical skills required; and v) calendar flexibility.

Mots-clés : pratique culturale; système de culture; couverture végétale; république démocratique populaire lao

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