Norwegian Church Aid began its work with the Akha of Namtha province of northern Laos in the late 1980s, focusing primarily on reducing opium production and dependency. Laos has subsequently been declared an opium-free country.
Today, with over 20 years of experience in this area, Norwegian Church Aid has a deep understanding of the Akha culture and language. Our experience is compounded by a substantial research cooperation program between NCA and Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Our local advantage has also been considerably strengthened by our intern program which gives young Akha people, usually girls, education followed by a working internship with NCA upon completion of their studies. These young, newly-educated Akha people act as role models for local youth, but also provide NCA with key language skills and cultural understanding that have proved central to our effectiveness on the ground.
See photos from our projects in Laos here!
What we do
Our work in Laos is today focused around the following areas:
- Livelihoods and trade: Improving agriculture productivity and livelihood security, as well as increasing local people’s income options by introducing savings groups. We also distribute livestock such as chickens and pigs, and assist in their husbandry by offering training, vaccination, fencing etc
- Gender-based violence: Women are a disadvantaged group in Laos and indigenous women are at a greater disadvantage than non-indigenous women. By providing education programs, women can be encouraged to participate more in society. They receive training in the Lao language – not their mother tongue – and are taught about national laws and international conventions that seek to end gender-based violence.
- Social Mitigation of HIV and AIDS: Akha people lack access to public services such as education and healthcare. Nor do they have access to health education in their own language, and as such, knowledge of STIs and HIV is uncommon. NCA now runs a comprehensive information and voluntary testing and treatment program in Luang Namtha province in cooperation with local health care workers to address these gaps.
Looking to the future
In the period 2011 – 2015 we intend to extend our programmatic focus to include components that address the effects of climate change on the Akha population, that secure the Akha access to quality healthcare, especially for women and children, and that address gender-based violence related to traditional sexual practices.