Laotian rice – Why what how ? Laos

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The rice in Laos, A question of survival !

While riding our bikes in the laotian countryside, we lost our way and ended up in a rice field where Souk and Suong (Mia é Pua – wife and husband) were waving at us. In less than one second we invited ourselves to work for 3 hours with them and discover how the rice harvesting works in this region. We’ve been invited for diner after a hard day of work and it was a real pleasure to also discover how a family of farmers lives and cooks despite our difficulties to communicate. Another very interesting experience for us !

We can now testify that rice harvesting is as hard as tea harvesting. The sun is very hot and the work is very hard for the back. Your hands, legs, knees and neck are easily caught and cut by the rice leaves and stem when you walk in the field or put a bundle of rice on your shoulder. To summarize, it’s not an easy job but it’s a very vital job to feed the laotian people.

From the field to the plate, here is what we discovered : 

The rice you find in the district of Luang namtha is mainly “sticky” rice. It is plant in may (rainy season) and harvested between mid november and mid december (dry season). The laotian government tries to make people plant and harvest twice a year but for now, the farmers are not ok. Despite the fact that they would need to plant during the dry season and harvest during the rainy season (which doesn’t make any sens as rice needs rain to grow and sun to dry after the harvesting) working in the rice fields is a very difficult job to do and the families are not ready to sacrifice their time and health for that. They choose to work with tourists on top of working in the field when they need money.

The different stage of rice harvesting : 

Rice harvesting_Laos_luang namtha province_Top things to seeFirst, the irrigation system is stopped and the rice cut in the traditionnal way, by hand and together as a family.

Rice fields_Harvesting season_Luang namtha_Laos_Top things to doThen the straws are left for 3 to 4 days under the sun and gathered as small bundles to dry.

Rice harvesting_Laos_Luang namtha_Top things to doBig round bales are installed on the field to receive the harvest.

Rice harvesting_Luang namtha_Field_Agriculture_Laos_top things to do
The small bundles are brought together by women…

Rice_Harvesting_Lunag namtha_Laos_Top things to see… And men take them to the big bale.

Rice_Harvesting_Luang namtha_Laos_top things to seeThe bales keep drying for another 3 to 4 days and are then beaten to only keep the grains that fall down the center of the bale directly to the canvas sheet waiting for them underneath the bale.

sticky rice_harvesting season_Luang namtha_Laos_top things to seeAnd to finish, the grains are put in bags, stored and eaten or sold in the market.