Rural communities such as Savannakhet and Saravane provinces in Laos have the potential to create marketable products but have yet to realize their market value due to problems of quality and market access, among other constraints. Against this background, the Government of Laos requested Japan to assist its efforts to launch the so-called One District One Product (ODOP) movement to promote local small businesses and thereby improve the livelihoods of local residents. Paralleled by national-level enthusiasm for ODOP, provincial ODOP committees were established, with the Department of Industry and Commerce as the core organization and other provincial departments, district offices and social organizations as participating organizations.
The objective of the project was to form an implementation system for pilot ODOP projects by developing the capacity of officials to implement the program. It also aimed at advancing community development and gender equality by promoting women’s participation in product development activities. Women play important roles in local markets in Laos: as manufacturers, middlemen, venders, and consumers. By incorporating their experiences and perspectives in product development processes, the project sought to provide opportunities for women to engage in social activities to address gender disparities at the community level.
In addition to product development and quality improvement of products, the team worked to: improve access to financing, marketing, value chain analyses, enhance capacity in management skills and train in leadership.