Over the last decade, Mike Fennema, Country Consultant for World Renew in Laos, and over 40 Lao national staff and seconded staff of various nationalities have faithfully worked to improve land security and the quality of life of the vulnerable people groups in the districts of Phongsaly and Xiangkhouang.
Those in power wanted to move the ethnic mountain people groups to the valleys for various reasons. They said that the use of slash/burn/shifting agriculture used by the mountain people groups was not sustainable; they said that the mountain land could better be used for commercial rubber, oil palm or coffee plantations; and they said that moving the tribal people to the lowlands would enable them to access education for their children in the majority language.
But in the last decade Mike and his staff have helped to answer those justifications in ways that have allowed the mountain people groups to stay in their homes, their communities, and their way of life. Together with the people of Phongsaly and Xiangkhouang, they have shown that agriculture in the mountains is sustainable with the use of legume cover crops and appropriate times of fallow. Mike and the rest of the World Renew Laos staff have helped small-holder farmers in the mountains to outpace large commercial plantations in soil productivity, even as rubber prices fluctuate wildly and outsider companies renege on contracts with farmers. And in partnership with Tear Australia, they have built schools in the mountain villages so children are going to school for the first time ever — without having to move to the valleys.
Within the Land Learning Initiative for Security Enhancement network, Mike has been a constant advocate for land justice for these vulnerable people. During this past year, this effort led to land-use mapping that may yet result in the government preserving the rights of the farmers, as well as helping farmers rotate their fields more rationally.
Mike has used his Canadian dairy farming family background to advocate high protein animal forages that increase the growth of goats and cattle, further improving the livelihoods of the people he serves. Mike’s management skill and trustworthiness have helped him to multiply the support of World Renew with that of eight other NGOs.
In these and many more efforts, the Lord has enabled Mike to be a blessing to the ethnic people groups of the mountains of Laos.
Pray for the continued success of this program in 2018!