Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 563–574 | Cite as

Farmers’ strategies as building block for rethinking sustainable intensification

  • Diana SuhardimanEmail author
  • Mark Giordano
  • Lilao Leebouapao
  • Oulavanh Keovilignavong


Agricultural intensification, now commonly referred to as sustainable intensification, is presented in development discourse as a key means to simultaneously improve food security and reduce rural poverty without harming the environment. Taking a village in Laos as a case study, we show how government agencies and farmers could perceive the idea of agricultural intensification differently. The study illustrates how farmers with the opportunities for groundwater use typically choose to grow vegetables and high valued cash crops rather than intensify rice production. This contrasts with government and donor supported efforts to promote rice intensification as a means to increase food security and reduce rural poverty. The article’s main message is that farmers’ differing strategies are related to a variety of household characteristics and that farmers’ strategies should be central to the current discussion on sustainable intensification.


Rice intensification Agricultural groundwater use Farming strategies Laos 



Agricultural master plan


Government of Laos


Ministry of agriculture and forestry



We would like to thank the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) for their financial support to the International Water Management Institute to conduct this study under the ACIAR Project LWR/2010/81: Enhancing the resilience and productivity of rainfed dominated systems in Lao PDR through sustainable groundwater use. This project contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE) and Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). We would like to thank Paul Pavelic for overall project support, Florence Milan, Singkham Lueyeevang, and Leexong Leebouapao for their support in baseline survey, and Ms. Chantha Souvannaxayyavong and Ms. Chon Chanthasean from respectively the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO) and the Ekxang village authority for logistic support in the field. The study design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of the result were undertaken exclusively by the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Suhardiman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark Giordano
    • 2
  • Lilao Leebouapao
    • 3
  • Oulavanh Keovilignavong
    • 1
  1. 1.International Water Management InstituteVientianeLao People’s Democratic Republic
  2. 2.Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign ServiceGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Mekong Development CentreVientianeLao People’s Democratic Republic

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