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Sekong Farm - Laos

Kickoff date : April 2011

Objective(s) : 500 m² and 750 kg of spirulina per year

Number of jobs created : 8

Budget : 53.000 €

Recipients : 2.500 children/year

Financial self-reliance of the programme : after 2-3 years

Partner(s) : Mai Savanh Lao

Location : Ben Kapeu (110 km from Paksé)

Funding : Fondation Aimer Nourrir Donner (Restaurants Cojean) et la Fondation Antenna

What we're achieving in 2014

  • At the end of March, the marketing authorisation for the produced spirulina was obtained and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) validated the field tests.
  • The initial discussions with the Health Ministry and Doctor Chandavone can be resumed, in order to undertake a series of “official” tests to position spirulina in publicly-funded nutrition programmes.
  • The output of the spirulina ponds is to be improved in order to achieve the objective of 700kg of produced spirulina.
  • Humanitarian distribution with SFE in the mountains at Attopeu will be intensified and the work with other associations will also be pursued.
  • Spirulina-based fruit jellies and other spirulina-based products will be tested.
  • Spirulina sales will be driven via the internet website of Maï Savanh Lao, which is under construction.

First semester 2014

The beginning of 2014 has been a very trying time with the cold wave that hit the whole country from November to mid-February. From January to March total production amounted to only 30kg. The ponds had to be completely cleaned out and the growing process had to be started again from scratch.
This should have given the production cycle a fresh start at the end of April 2014.
We hope to receive good news soon.

Looking back on 2013

  • Total spirulina output amounts to 453kg, which is significantly under our expectations for several reasons: early rains, part of our installations took fire in October and the Head of Operations resigned in October.
  • 450 children received spirulina
  • 2 jobs were created
  • Sales began in Laos, as well as in Europe. A new client in Switzerland answered positively by ordering 50kg of spirulina flakes per month
  • A packaging was designed to reach out to a larger public (sachet with a zip opening and recycled paper aspect)
  • Two field interventions by ATF allowed fruitful exchanges in all fields: technology, management and the building of relationships with associations
  • Contact was established with Dr Chandavone, Head of the Health and Nutrition department of the Health Ministry. Dr Chandavone showed great interest in our approach of producing spirulina locally in Laos by Laotians for Laotians. He is also the contact person in Laos for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme.
  • Our first contact with the NGO “Service Fraternel d’Entraide” (SFE) has reached a next step. They have decided to include spirulina distribution within their malnutrition programme in the mountains of South Laos. The percentage of children showing chronic signs of the disease there is alarming.

Looking back on 2012

  • Construction of the building
  • Spirulina production was set on track thanks to Charles, a young engineer specialised in agronomy, who in the process also trained Soupy, a young Laotian worker.
  • February: 1st spirulina harvest of 5kg
  • First contacts were established locally with the FAO and WHS.
  • Construction of the second circular 100m2 pond with the support of Antenna’s Technical Director
  • Sales of the finished product (capsules), named “Spirulao” were initiated in certain shops in Vientiane
  • Packaging and flyers were finalised
  • In June 2012 the first distribution test took place among 50 children. Awareness raising was also conducted among the parents. The idea received a positive welcome form the latter and the children greatly appreciated the spirulina flakes.
  • As the production rate was living up to expectations, it was decided to start the works early and to build 2 new 150 m2 ponds each, as well as invest in new equipment.
  • In order to be able to offer the spirulina as capsules, a traditional shredding machine was acquired, which operates at an unbeatable cost (elbow grease!). 8g-10g of spirulina are shredded per hour with a sufficient end grain size to allow for successful encapsulation.
  • End result for 2012 : 265kg

Looking back on 2011

  • The national sanitary authorities have granted M.S.L. the official authorisation to produce, commercialise and distribute spirulina to malnourished children.
  • The M.S.L. company has put a piece of land of 2,500m2 to our disposal for the project.
  • The land is cleared and developed to serve the new spirulina farm’s purpose.
  • A first rectangular spirulina pond of 100 m2 is built.