Lai Chau Province: area 17,333 km2, population 562,000, provincial capital: Lai Chau Town. The province is home to 23 ethnic groups, especially Thai and Hmong. As the north-western-most province in Vietnam, Lao Chai borders both China and Laos.
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The project consists of building a 25-meter wide irrigation dam and an irrigation canal in Muong Luan Commune.

Description of project:
Muong Luan Commune is located in Dien Bien District, which lies in the southern part of Lai Chau province some 100 km from the town of Dien Bien Phu. It is close to the border with Laos. Access is very difficult due to the condition of the roads. As everywhere else in this province, water is the primary problem. 36% of the population lives below the poverty line. Average elevation is 1,700m. 88 out of the 154 communes in the province are considered amongst the poorest in the country.

We discussed the proposed project with the provincial authorities during a preliminary visit to Lai Chau Province in August 1999. We reached agreement on the details of the project and transferred a total of US$28,949 in December 1999 covering 80.1 percent of the cost of the project. The government agreed to cover the balance of US$7,174. Construction of the irrigation system took about four months.

The project consists of upgrading the irrigation system including the construction of one concrete dam 25 meters wide and 2.8 meters high and a 1,680 meter canal (80 meters cement and 1,600 meters dirt); The systems will facilitate the irrigation of some 22 hectares of rice fields, a 2.5 hectare fish pond and increase rice production from 1 to 2 crops per year or 2.75 to 3.55 metric tons per hectare.

Final evaluation:
We evaluated the completed project during a visit to Muong Luan Commune on 23 April 2001.

The village was a remote mountain village with very difficult access roads. During the rainy season, it is pretty much cut off. To get to the project site required walking the final 3 kilometres. The 25 meters-wide irrigation dam was actually less of a dam but more like two concrete walls 2.8 meters high facing each other 25 meters apart. They serve to channel the considerable rainwater into two main canals, which lead down the mountain through the village, and into the rice fields.

We walked from the dam along the newly built irrigation canals. There were actually two separate canals. One canal consisted of 55 meters of concrete, followed by 520 meters of dirt, followed by 150 meters of concrete, including a 15-meter aqueduct. The second canal was a 581-meter dirt canal. The project irrigated some 17 hectares of rice of which 10 hectares had increased production from 1 to 2 crops per year. For the 80 households (600 persons) living in the village, this allows a 40-kilogram increase in rice production per capita. It also allowed the irrigation of a small fishpond.

The construction of the canal appeared to be of good quality with limited water supplies flowing through since the rainy season had not yet begun. It was nevertheless difficult to assess the effectiveness of the irrigation dam and canal due to the relative lack of water at the time of visit.

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Nature of project:
Construction of an irrigation dam 25 meters wide and a 1,680-meter concrete and dirt canal.

Number of beneficiaries:
720 persons mainly rice farmers of Lao ethnic origin.

Result of project:
The project should result in more efficient irrigation of some 22 hectares of rice fields and thereby increasing production from 1 to 2 crops per year or 2.75-3.55 metric tons per hectare.

Duration of project:
4 months

Date of final evaluation:
23 April 2001

Total amount contributed:
US$ 28,949

Government contribution:
US$ 7,174

Total cost of the project:
US$ 36,124