Ms. Cindy McCain U.S. Ambassador to the Rome-based UN agencies visit Laos

Ms. Cindy McCain, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Rome-based agencies mandated to work on food, agriculture, nutrition and rural development – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has visited Lao PDR on Nov 30.
The aiming of visiting Lao PDR to learn about the country’s coping mechanisms amidst the global food crisis, and to highlight U.S. support to Lao PDR and its people.
Ambassador McCain said the following about her visit, “The work of the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies is essential to address food insecurity in Lao PDR. Together with the Lao government, the three agencies work to reduce hunger, improve learning and nutrition outcomes for primary school students, strengthen livelihoods of small-holder farmers, and bolster resilience of the country’s food systems. Conflict, especially in Ukraine, climate change, and COVID-19 increased global hunger to unprecedented levels. The United States will continue to be a top contributor and supporter of the agencies work here on the ground and around the world.”
During her visit, in the oversight role of the U.S. government as an important donor to the UN food agencies, Ambassador McCain seeks to understand the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in Laos, and see UN agencies’ hands-on solutions to these issues and their work on poverty reduction. Visiting Oudomsouk school in Bachieng Chaleunsouk district, she experienced WFP’s support to school-based nutrition in Champassak province. The main and long-term donor to the program is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with the current support of food commodities arriving through WFP’s supply chain to Lao PDR, contributing to daily nutritious lunches for 64,000 primary school children in 707 schools around the country. While in Champassak, the Ambassador also had a chance to tour WFP’s warehouse in Pakse and learn how the world’s largest humanitarian agency targets the most vulnerable through its nutrition, resilience and emergency response in Lao PDR.
“Our Country Strategic Plan for Lao PDR is greatly supported by the United States, with the U.S. Department for Agriculture financing WFP to support the Lao Government’s school feeding programs since 2008, and the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance more recently contributing to our work around resilience for food security. As our programs are gradually shifting to national ownership and community management, we continue to count on the U.S. as an important partner for Lao PDR,“ WFP Country Director and Representative Jan Delbaere said.
Continuing her journey to the capital Vientiane, Ambassador McCain spent time with FAO learning about its proactive role to sustainably transform the Agri-food Systems and its Early Warning and Response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and the current food and fuel crisis on vulnerable communities in rural and urban areas.
Ambassador McCain learned how tailored and climate-resilient technology solutions applied to crop seeds are important to the agriculture sector in the Lao PDR and the vital role it plays in food systems worldwide. She visited the Rice and Cash Crop Research Center, which develops new varieties, hosts the traditional gene bank and provides quality seeds to farmers in the country and abroad to understand more about their research and development work in quality landrace and traditional seeds, and how this work directly impacts the future of world crop production.
The Ambassador continued her visit seeing the development and achievements of an exemplary woman-led – and primarily female membered – smallholder farmers’ cooperative of organic vegetable production. Thongmang Agricultural Cooperative is the main provider for high quality and safe food for Vientiane capital. With FAO support as a selected model farmer group, the cooperative has benefitted from increased opportunities to strengthen its capacities.
“I am proud to see how our work with the Government for seed quality improvement and for ensuring production of safe, diverse and nutritious produce with communities is continuously growing and contributing to transforming the food systems in the country. As FAO proactively monitors the impact of the current food and fuel crisis I am also very pleased that we continue to address the farmers’ challenges in food security and livelihoods exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Global efforts are needed to address these issues and we are pleased that the U.S. is supporting our efforts and recognizes the importance of this work for the food security and sustainable growth of the Lao PDR,” Nasar Hayat, FAO Representative to Lao PDR said.
The Ambassador was also updated on the development and achievements of IFAD investments in the Lao PDR, focusing on food security, nutrition, and value chain development with market linkages in the government convergence areas in partnership with Rome-based agencies and other development partners, namely to contribute to the elimination of poverty and hunger in rural areas, transforming agriculture, rural economies and food systems through investments, creating more inclusive, productive, resilient and sustainable rural economies.
How the United Nations, as a system, is assisting the Government of Lao PDR in these trying times of global insecurity, where the country is facing budgetary constraints due to compounding economic effects of the pandemic, and the global food and fuel crisis associated with the war in Ukraine, was discussed at a meeting with UN agencies led by Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR. The main focus of the meeting was the joint efforts of UN country team members including its food agencies in support of solutions for food insecurity.
The Resident Coordinator highlighted that “the UN’s priority is to support the most vulnerable and marginalized in this crisis. Joint UN efforts such as the program on High Frequency Data are needed which together with the Lao Academy for Economic and Social Sciences generates indispensable data evidence to assess the impact of the current shocks on people in Lao PDR that can inform necessary course corrections for policies and program that aim to tackle the challenges at hand.”
Visiting the office of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an organization contributing to the national UXO program supported also by UNDP in addressing the legacy of war with explosive ordnance disposal, informed Ambassador McCain of the inherent challenges to food production in war-torn countries contaminated with explosive remnants of war. Courtesy visits were also paid to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meeting with Deputy Minister Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune and to the Champassak Provincial Governor’s office Dr. Vilayvong Bouddakham to hear from national and provincial authorities how U.S. investments and the work of the UN food agencies are received.
With a similar aim, Ambassador McCain continues her journey to Cambodia before returning to her duty station in Rome, Italy.

Source: Lao News Agency