From 2007 to 2012, HDI with support from the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program of the US Department of Agriculture, implemented a five-year school feeding program in Khammouane Province – the heart of Laos’ mine-contaminated land and one of its poorest provinces – to address problems of school attendance and malnutrition. Half of the children living in rural areas were malnourished and without access to clean water. Among school aged children, one in six did not attend primary school, and nearly half of the children who started school never reached grade five. Through this program HDI fed 18,000 children daily with nutritious snacks during school hours, repaired 148 schools providing them with clean water and latrines where needed, and trained 540 teachers. As a result of the program, there was a 30% increase in boy’s enrollment, 45% in girl’s enrollment and 98% of boys and girls subsequently attended school in 150 communities in Khammouane Province. In addition, HDI successfully removed 5,000 unexploded bombs from 150 schools and village areas making the land safe for travel, learning, building and farming.
In 2011, HDI began work to support the revitalization of the mushroom growing industry in Laos. Working at both the central Government level and at the field level, the HDI project was committed to increasing the skills, knowledge and resources of the leaders in the field of mycology in Laos. The project worked with families to bring them out of poverty by teaching mushroom growing skills and afterwards providing inputs and tools so that families can grow their own. Income generated from sale of the mushrooms improved the economic status of the families while the mushrooms themselves were an excellent source of food for family members themselves.