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by Mr. Shigeo Takenaka
H.E. Dr. Nam, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr. Somdy, APO Director for Lao PDR, Director General of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion and Development Office (SMEPDO), and Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my pleasure to attend the national Workshop on Development of the One District, One Product (ODOP) movement in Lao PDR. This is a follow-up to the series of projects which the APO organized both in Oita, Japan, and Bangkok, Thailand, for countries in the Indochina region. I previously attended a similar workshop in Cambodia and am glad that this movement is gradually gathering momentum in this region.
The One Village, One Product movement represents an innovative form of Integrated Community Development initiated more than 25 years ago in Oita, Japan. It quickly spread to other parts of the country and then internationally. It is sometimes called OVOP as in Japan, OTOP as in Thailand, or ODOP as in Lao PDR. Whatever it is called, it almost always has an enormous impact on the economic and social life of the communities concerned. Local residents are encouraged by a clear, feasible goal and motivated by a vision of a bright future. Many of them have witnessed firsthand how the movement spurs regional development. As I have also witnessed many successful and not so successful cases, let me take this occasion to comment on just three factors that I think are essential for a successful OVOP movement.
First of all, OVOP should pursue an “only one” strategy. In developing new products, there are two possible strategies. One is “number one” the other is “only one.” If you try to produce something that can be found in many other localities or countries, your product can be competitive only when it is number one in terms of quality and/or in terms of price among its competitors. This is never easy.
If, on the other hand, you produce something that is unique to your locality, or unique to Laos, people will come to your locality or visit Lao PDR to see it, appreciate it, and likely buy it. This is the “only one” Strategy. OVOP products without local contents are usually not sustainable in the long run.
In the development of products that are marketable outside a village, the villagers must play the leading role. More than anyone else, they know the village’s history, culture and natural conditions. Without knowing these elements, you cannot develop products that are locally unique. Uniqueness is what you are seeking to add value to your products and make them commercially profitable.
Second, the villagers must become involved not only in the production of products but also in their marketing. People’s tastes are changing all the time as are their economic circumstances. Villagers must orient themselves to these changes and adjust product contents and production timing accordingly. Then villages can make their business more sustainable by developing their own capacity to respond to the market economy.
Third, as marketing is not easy for villagers to master, at least initially, local governments and the central government are requested to help them by supplying market information, teaching marketing technologies, organizing market research or trade exhibitions, or even by inviting experts from targeted importing countries to get outsiders’ views.
With those factors working together, I am sure you will achieve tangible, lasting results. The APO is happy to continue cooperation so that every rural community in Lao PDR will find a way to stand on its own feet economically. It is my sincere hope that this workshop will provide timely momentum for enhancing regional development through the OVOP movement. It is also my hope that SMEPDO, our APO counterpart for Lao PDR, will play an even greater role in this movement, since various productivity tools are useful and helpful in OVOP movement.
Before concluding my short remarks, I would like to express my deep appreciation to SMEPDO for organizing this workshop. My special thanks also go to all resource persons, especially Mr. Masato Kuroda, for sharing their time and expertise with the participants. Finally, I wish to thank the Government of Japan for the financial support without which this workshop would not have been possible.
I wish you all a most fruitful discussion today.