Building the capacity of Vang Vieng villages’ field CBED and SBC coordinators: Innovative approach “Pass-the-Baton” method explained

Partner : RRDPA, Laos, Lao Women Union (LWU)
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With its vision of “Sustainable and Equitable Community Development throughout Lao PDR”, RRDPA is regarded fit to roll out SBC packages in Lao PDR. The rural development NGOs worked 17 out of 18 provinces across Lao PDR.  The Lao PDR is facing big pressure from bilateral and multilateral donors and creditors to open up Laos for commercial development. To generate revenue, the Government is relying on foreign direct investments such as mining, hydro-dams and land concessions /plantations.  These strategies, although “sold” as a way of reducing poverty are not pro-poor, do not deliver the promised number of jobs in the long term and are having an increasingly dramatic effect on land use, the environment and the livelihoods of many rural communities, particularly ethnic minority groups.

Luckily the small town of Vang Vieng 150 km north of the capital is set in a dreamlike landscape of bizarre limestone mountain peaks and sheer cliffs with the Nam Song River bisecting the town. At the base of the town’s limestone mountains are a network of caves to explore. There are a variety of well-developed tourism services in Vang Vieng and a wide range of accommodations.  Water sports such as kayaking and tubing are popular and rock climbing is also a growing pastime. For those who prefer less exhausting travel, Vang Vieng’s sights include several 16th and 17th century monasteries and the small Hmong villages of Nam Som and Nam Muang.

C-BED and SBC provides communities with the tools and methods to develop technical know-how and create learning opportunities through empowering men, women and youth to share experiences and help others within their community to assist business owners with development of their business ideas or improving their current business model into a revenue generating business. The method is low cost, creating a great utility that is accessible in poor, vulnerable or marginalized communities that would be traditionally inaccessible due to social or geographical isolation.

The program has especially focus its beneficiaries who are coming from poor, vulnerable and marginalized populations. Both youth and women were encouraged to participate. From the participants at the lower income end of the scale 12% earn 0-80,000 kip p/mth (up to $ 10 USD p/mth) and accumulate savings of 0-40,000 kip p/mth (up to $5 USD p/mth).  From participants at the higher income end of the scale 28% earn 400,000+ kip p/mth (up to $ 50 USD p/mth) and accumulate savings of 0-200,000+ kip p/mth (up to $25 USD p/mth). It is difficult to measure wealth in terms of LAK, as they are they are rich in produce and livestock which provides a sufficient livelihood for their families. Our local partner, RRDPA adopts an innovative ‘pass-on-the-baton’ scheme in trickling down the knowledge acquired through SBC and CBED.

the training was divided into 2 target groups and community is facilitator : Target Group 1: Small Farmers who would attend 4 days training on Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Smallholder farmers C-BED tools; and Target Group 2: Homestay owners who would attend 4 days training on Homestay and Microfinance C-BED Tools. The whole approach took three consequtive different steps/rounds.

1st. Round : 12 people from 4 villages are trained to build their capacity as field coordinator
2nd Round : Dispatched in each villages, each field facilitator conducts training with NGO’s Supervision
3rd Round : Training conduct with minimal / no supervision from NGOs

The first round of the training involves several selected (twelve) members of villagers trained for each of the modules—They are trained to become CBED and SBC Field Facilitators. Recommendations of names come simply from the Villages’ Heads. There were in total four modules combining SBC and CBED, namely Homestay package and Smallholder Farmers packages, combined with Aspiring Entrepeneurs and Microfinance Management. Following the first round, at the second round, the six already trained facilitators are dispatched to train their villages members, with the close supervision of NGO. The NGO are still welcomed to intervene to help the villagers. At the last round, the twelve villagers that have gone through 1st and 2nd round are expected to conduct the training without minimal or no supervision at all. In total there are 71 participants getting the series of training between the 1st and the 3rd round, out of 12 trained in the beginning. The whole process lasted for couple of months, to allow in between round evaluations and preparation for the field facilitators.

In total, the approach recommends a minimum of 2 pilots to build the capacity of a Field Partner to deliver C-BED as part of their standard business model and a minimum of 4 pilots to build the capacity of a village to deliver C-BED in a sustainable way. Based on this experience, the approach invested USD $1,434.00 as seed funding to assure the capacity of the villagers, and for each community level’s training, it costs 35 USD per person for them to follow the four modules packages (in total requiring 4 days). This is to assume that the village pays only materials’ replication, meals and refreshment.

C-BED can be sustainable in Laos however a 1 year strategy for Laos needs to be developed including funding sources to provide a longer term sustainability plan for the people of Laos. Based on RRDPA’s observations local communities can keep or run C-BED without external support, but they should have a strategy plan, key people to be facilitator’s on C-BED based in village committee (village women union, village development fund and youth) and village committee must be strong on management skills.