Lao restaurants and businesses can now tap into Laos’s rich food and farming culture, with last week’s launch of the Pha Khao Lao website dedicated to preserving traditional recipes and agricultural practices.
The website highlights Laotian products like forest honey and river weed that is pressed into sheets and dried to make a crispy snack, according to Michael Victor, who runs the agro-biodiversity initiative that helps fund the project.
Operated by the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Pha Khao Lao Agrobiodiversity Resource Platform also include stories from farmers, as well information on traditional farming techniques.
“The platform is an attempt to find ways to strengthen local food systems in Laos, which are breaking down rapidly due to rise of industrial agriculture, commercialization and urbanization,” Mr Victor told The Jakarta Globe.
“The goal is to ensure that the rich natural heritage of Laos is conserved and used, and that knowledge is used by the new generation in a different way.”
The project also aims to spur agricultural and culinary entrepreneurship among young people and provide a resource to students and researchers, he added.
Mr Victor cited products such as tea and benzoin, which is extracted from tree bark and used in products including perfumes and incense, and as a food flavouring.
He said that more than 200 tree and plant species – including rice – have already been added to the platform.
Laos has more types of rice than any other country except India, Mr Victor added.
About 80% of Laos’ seven million people are farmers, growing crops including coffee, rubber, and cassava, according to the World Bank.
However, they added that only about 12% of farmland is irrigated, while a lack of infrastructure hinders production, processing and marketing.
Most farms are less than 1 hectare – which is not large enough for commercial farming – with the majority of farmers still growing for subsistence, they said.
Along with providing recipes that use local products, those behind the website hope it will eventually link farmers with traders or consumers.
“It’s this whole movement about making connections between what we eat and where it’s produced – making people more aware of the importance of understanding where your food comes from,” Mr Victor said.
Source: The Jakarta Globe