Support to the Reform of the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College in Laos (SURAFCO)

Project completed
Students of the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. © Touravanh/SDC.

Innovation and reform of the agriculture sector is necessary for Lao PDR to achieve socioeconomic growth and graduate from its status of Least Developed Country. SDC has worked to strengthen Lao agriculture and forestry colleges since 2009, in response to a growing need for highly skilled professionals, who can help farmers in improving their practices and escape poverty.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural policy
Agricultural development
01.12.2012 - 28.02.2017
CHF 6'400'000

Agriculture is a central component in the Lao economy. The agriculture sector still generates almost 30 percent of the GDP and employs more than two thirds of the workforce. Particularly poor, ethnic communities in the Northern Uplands depend on agriculture for their food and income.

An ongoing shift from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture is demanding farmers to acquire new skills. A successful transition will require many qualified agriculture professionals, who can bring farmers new knowledge about farming practices, input provision, product processing, and marketing. SDC seeks to facilitate this shift through a variety of projects that aim to strengthen the agriculture sector.

Lack of skilled human resources in the agriculture sector hampers successful implementation of new farming practices. Agricultural education in Lao PDR often still is of low standard and generally characterized by poor teaching practices, limited linkage between training and practical skills, poor infrastructure, and little to no correlation with the demands of the labor market.

Therefore, it is a top priority for the Government of Lao PDR to improve the human resources available in the agriculture sector. The government is committed to answering the need for highly educated and skilled agricultural technicians, who are capable of modernizing the sector.

SDC has assisted the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to formulate a 12-year (2008- 2020) strategy to reform Lao PDR’s five agriculture colleges. Since 2009, SDC has specifically supported the reform of the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College (NAFC) in Luang Prabang, through the Support to the Reform of the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College in Laos (SURAFCO) project. Now in its second phase, the SURAFCO project will continue to support the reform of the NAFC as well as roll out lessons learned to the remaining four agriculture colleges in the country.


The project’s overall development goal is to establish the NAFC as a broadly recognized centre of excellence for sustainable upland farming systems. The college will offer skills-based and market-oriented education, training, and services, and its graduates will use their education to contribute to poverty reduction, food security, and income generation in the Northern provinces of Lao PDR.


Expected results:  

SDC will support the NAFC to implement reforms and achieve full sustainability until 2020. During the current second project phase, the project will share new teaching and management practices from the NAFC with the other four agriculture colleges in Lao PDR and it will also focus on evaluating agriculture college graduates’ skills and ability to enter the labor market.

Results from previous phases:  

During its first phase, from 2009 to 2012, the SURAFCO project successfully improved selection of students at the NAFC; strengthened teachers’ skills; improved the curriculum; established external partnerships; improved the college’s infrastructure; and upgraded the management system.

With SDC’s support, the NAFC increased the enrollment of female students from 13 percent in 2010 to 29 percent in 2011, thanks to new scholarships, increased awareness, and closer collaboration with local schools.

Teachers at the NAFC have participated in 94 SDC-supported trainings, resulting in improved confidence and competences. The curriculum for diploma degrees in agronomy, livestock production, agro-business, and forestry have been upgraded, with emphasis on practical experience relevant to the market and upland farming systems.

The SURAFCO project has funded major improvements to the college’s infrastructure, including the construction of classrooms for 280 students, a laboratory, two dormitories, twenty livestock and agricultural farm units – for practical training, as well as telephone and internet connections.

Lastly, the project has supported the NAFC to develop more transparent management practices, for example by creating job descriptions and job performance indicators.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
  • SDC Field Office

Other partners

The Northern Agricultural and Forestry College in Luang Prabang, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with technical support of Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation.

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF   6'400'000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF   6'137'590
Project phases Phase 3 01.03.2017 - 31.05.2021   (Current phase)

Phase 2 01.12.2012 - 28.02.2017   (Completed)