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Ken and Nee, Done Keo Villlagers, are waiting their turns to collect water. (Photo: Dr. Ingrid Suter/IUCN Lao PDR)

Noticing that I was alone, two women shyly approached me with tentative smiles. I’d seen them earlier that day supervising young children in what turned out to be a makeshift kindergarten. This is how I met 20 year old Ken and 18 year old Nee, although Nee was unsure of her exact age or even her last name. Such is life in the remote village of Ban Done Keo in Khammoun Province of the Lao People’s Democratic Republics (Lao PDR).

Hae Ko villagers install a water filtration system to increase resilience to climate-related threats to their water supply. (Photo: Ratkawee Boonmake/IUCN)

“Last year during the rainy season, the entire village got sick from the drinking water,” says Asa, a farmer in northern Thailand’s Hae Ko village, adding, “This has been a problem for us over the last few years.” Asa said the rainfall has become irregular and heavier during the rainy season. This has caused soils on the hill sides to erode and sediments to enter their water supply. He explains, “During the rainy season, our drinking water is a reddish color.” He and the other villagers typically boil their water only when making tea, but not for other consumption.

Mr. Aleh instructs the two laborers he employed how to build his new ‘cool’ pig pit. (Photo: Joseph Vile/AMDI)

“Without the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (USAID Mekong ARCC) project, I wouldn’t have used this new system,” says Aleh Yangia, a farmer in Hae Ko village who joined USAID Mekong ARCC and its partner IUCN Thailand, on a study tour to a neighboring village that is successfully raising pigs in a new integrated pig pit system. For Aleh and many other villagers living in northern Thailand’s Hae Ko hill tribe community, raising pigs is an integral part of their lives. Not only do they serve as a critical protein source for the community and provide supplementary income, they are also culturally important as a ceremonial gift.

Malee Pasae, Lisu woman, explained about crop diversification that she is applying in her plums plantation. (Photo Cr. Ienkate Saenghkaew/DAI)

“I used to grow only rice and corn and never earned enough,” explains Kamron Nguaya, a Hae Ko village leader and farmer who, despite his sizeable farmland, until recently had to supplement his income through day labor. He added, “I could harvest only once a year and the cost of chemical fertilizer was high.” Over the last few years, Kamron introduced additional crops on his land that eventually gave him a steady, varied source of income so he could stop working as a day laborer. However, many others in Hae Ko, a Lisu hill tribe community in the Chiang Rai highlands, still grow “monocrops” of rice, maize and groundnuts, making them highly reliant on predictable weather patterns for their income.