World Food Day - Promising tweets: A small bird improves the nutrition and livelihood of rural communities in Laos
Tweets are becoming a more and more enjoyable sound and a new symbol of hope for Lao remote communities. Some 12,000km away from Silicon Valley and the notifications of the famous social media, rural households from TaOi district, Saravane Province, are indeed enjoying hearing about their quails growing up and thriving, a symbol of new income and improved nutrition. Mr Ampan and Mrs Sao are a brilliant testimony of the new raising trend initiated by the Accelerating Healthy Agriculture and Nutrition (AHAN) Project, led by World Vision with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
With eight members in their household, the couple struggled to make ends meet in the past, mainly relying on the sale of cassava and non-timber forest products. With irregular incomes and food shortages during the low seasons, they needed a way to improve their livelihood and the nutrition status of their family. Both farmers, Ampan and Sao had a chance to join the quail rearing training organized by the project in early 2021. Quickly, the small bird became the new favourite source of proteins for the family. The exquisite meat highly-praised in western countries and the nutrient-rich eggs have considerably changed the households’ meals: “I usually boil eggs and sometimes grill quail to cook with vegetables for my family” says Sao. Since then, their children are no longer going to school with an empty stomach and have more energy to learn: “my children love to eat quail eggs, they often eat it for breakfast” says the mother.
Ampan explains the turning point on their journey with AHAN:
“Me and my wife lacked raising skills and knowledge. Now I know how to reduce costs of rearing, and how to increase the productivity of the small animal.”
The AHAN Project provided 100 rearings and breeding equipment to the family, and by following the learnings of the training they attended, Ampan’s family was able to produce 1,800 quail eggs and another 100 birds were born by the end of the first cycle of two months. To save the family some costs of quail food, AHAN staff taught Ampan and all participants in the training to use the protein-rich Azolla plant, easily found in the TaOi area.
These new livelihood resources have transformed into a steady and reliable new source of income: the new quail-raising champions earn an additional 600,000 KIP/month (app. $52) from selling quail eggs and breeding. The new income was very welcomed during the COVID-19 pandemic which deeply impacted the livelihoods and food security of Lao rural communities. But our quail-raising champions went through the troubled period more resilient than ever: the earnings allowed them to buy more food for their family, school clothes for their children and invest to expand their activity.
The tweeting quails are making Ampan and his family happy and more confident for the future. The couple is now sharing the recipe to success with their neighbours interested in rearing quails: three other families have bought a total of 220 quails from them. This is a promising sign of a future away from malnutrition for their children and community, and a chance to overcome poverty for this rural family.