Laos: Supporting the Self-Sufficiency of Persons with Disabilities through Catfish Culture

Starting a small scale business in back yards

It is generally and universally challenging for persons with disabilities (PWDs) to have a job, earn his/her own income, and be able to live independently. Laos is no exception. In order to change such a condition, AAR Japan, in cooperation with Laos Disabled People’s Association (LDPA), is supporting PWDs in starting their own small businesses. Since July of 2014, we started a project to support PWDs with limited opportunities in getting a job, especially those in rural areas. The project provides assistance in starting small-scale business such as mushroom growing, sewing, and catfish culture that PWDs can engage at home or nearby. This report is on the catfish culture.

Why catfish?

In Laos, catfish is a very common food. Its market is less competitive in comparison to rice and meat, and the fish can be sold directly to the neighbors. It involves less labor, and is relatively easy for PWDs to start on. However, it is crucial that each participant has a strong motivation and commitment in order to succeed. Therefore, we asked each participant to bear a part of the start-up cost (equivalent of 2,000 Japanese yen) in the project, so that they have a strong motivation to continue their businesses.

Catfish fry, which was 8 cm, has grown more than double the length to 18 cm after a month (Above photo taken on September 4th, 2014. The below was taken on October 2nd, 2014)

The number of participants of catfish culture so far is 37, with participants spanning ages from twenties to fifties. The first step of the project was to teach the participants how to build the cement pond in their back yards. The pond is relatively small in size, 2d x 3w x 0.8h meters, which makes the work easier for the participants despite their disabilities. After giving lectures on the management of catfish, such as feeding, AAR Japan staff visited participants’ houses, providing 400 fingerlings to each participant. It is planned that when catfish reaches approximately 30 cm in size, participants would start selling them.
Constructing a pond in back yard. The participants helped each other to complete them. (August 7th, 2014)
Releasing the fingerlings. AAR continues to monitor the progress, making sure that catfish is not being overfed. (September 3rd, 2014)

The sales would help participants’ household income

One of the participants, Mr. Keo (42) lives in Vientiane Province and was born with a limb disability, which allows him to walk for only 100 meters at most. He lives with his elderly mother, and makes his living by making baskets out of bamboo and wicker and selling them. His family’s financial situation is dire; they often receive charity given by the Buddhist temples when sales of those baskets are not enough to buy food. When monitoring his pond, Mr. Keo’s expression is nothing but seriousness. “If the catfish grow well enough for sale, it would be a great help for the household income,” he says.

Mr. Keo had wanted to become an engineer, but now he devotes himself to catfish culture (September 3rd, 2014)

“I want to buy clothes with my own money”

Ms. Unheuang (40) has an intellectual disability and has difficulty with her memory, but keeps track of feeding her catfish every day. “When I sell my catfish and make my own money for the first time in my life, I want to buy some clothes for myself”. Ms. Unheuang, of whom we were told to be a quiet person, beamed with delight as she told us her dream.

Ms. Unheuang is excited over being able to earn money by herself (October 2nd, 2014)
Catfish grown close to 30 cm in the pond of the participant (November 13th, 2014)
AAR plans to provide catfish farming training for 120 participants during two and a half year period in Capital Vientiane and Vientiane Province as well as Xayaboury Province in the Project. We would like to continue our efforts toward the day in which PWDs who had secluded themselves from outside would be able to live their own lives as a member of the society just like any others.
Noriyasu OKAYAMA, AAR Vientiane Office
OKAYAMA has worked in AAR Laos Office since June, 2004. After graduating from university, he spent two years working in Bangladesh as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. In prior to joining AAR, he also worked for an affiliated organization of the Fisheries Agency, and later stationed in Nepal as a representative of an NGO working for the rural development. (profile as the date of the article) 
Japanese-English translation by Ms. Hanano Sasaki
English editing by Ms Lindsey Black

The article on this page has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Volunteer Program. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.