Community-managed rice banks: lessons from Laos

Rice banks are increasingly used in South-East Asia as a means of addressing seasonal food crises facing poor communities. Despite general agreement about the effectiveness of community-managed rice banks in improving food security, there has been almost no research into their effectiveness in reaching the poorest, or the prospects of sustainability linked to regular repayments of rice. Concern Laos sought to answer these questions through community mobilisation, forming rules and regulations to encourage the participation of the poorest, developing simple tools and procedures in line with existing community capacity, and building greater community capacity. Other challenges remain, such as changing the prevailing ‘relief’ mentality, ensuring women’s participation, and establishing regular savings schemes, in order to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of the rice banks.