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FEATURE STORY August 30, 2019

Nam Theun 2 Powering Entrepreneurship: Livelihood Adaptation

Villagers relocated for the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project received training in a number of livelihood activities, including fisheries. Khaikham shares her story about becoming the head of the local fishery group.

World Bank Group

At 7am, the fish market at Thalang village is already buzzing with merchants trying to negotiate prices with fishers unloading their catches from boats or weighing their fish on a scale. Ms. Khaikham Sayavongsa is busy supervising several women, one taking notes while the other collects money from the merchants. An hour later, the crowd starts to dissolve – boats retreat, merchants depart with fresh fish on ice, and Khaikham and her staff carry some fish up to her shop. She then prepares a fireplace to smoke the fish, which is being rapidly cut into fillets. This is Khaikham’s typical morning routine.

Thalang village borders the Nam Theun 2 reservoir and hosts the district’s main fish market. Most people in the village depend on fishing for a living. Khaikham is relatively new to the fish business, but now serves as Head of the Fishery Group in her village. She and her family moved to Thalang in 2008, to make way for the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project. When she first arrived, she faced challenges in adapting to the new environment and way of life. In her old village, she depended mainly on farming and finding food in the forest, so it was a big change to live in a town further away from the forest, with smaller farmlands.

“I was worried when we were consulted about moving to a new village because I didn’t know what it would be like. When we first arrived, we were concerned about the size of the land, and whether it would be enough for our family to continue farming for a living. It was difficult at first, because we were all used to one way of life. Over time, we received support from the project and the district to help us adapt. They tried to encourage us and continued to follow up with us. They didn’t let us down.”

"It was difficult at first, because we were all used to one way of life. Over time, we received support from the project and the district to help us adapt. They tried to encourage us and continued to follow up with us. They didn’t let us down."
Khaikham Sayavongsa
Head of Thalang Fishery Group


Khaikham at her shop.

Like other resettled villagers, Khaikham was supported by the NT2 project in livelihood generation activities. Training in fish processing skills has now enabled her to earn a better living than before, and she has transitioned from farming to fish processing as her job. With her leadership and determination, she was selected to be Head of the Fishery Group only two years after moving to the new village. Her job is now to oversee the management of the fishery trade, fish processing products and the control of fishery activities to prevent illegal fishing in protected areas, or fishing by outsiders to the resettled communities.

“I was taught by people from a nearby village, who had attended a fish processing skills training supported by the NT2 project, to make sour fish, dry fish, shredded fish and fermented fish. There are two types of sour fish that I was trained to do – fillet and mince. The most popular products sold in our village are dry fish, fillet sour fish and fermented fish.

There are seven people working in the Fishery Group. The women usually work on fishery trade management and fish processing, while men focus on controlling illegal fishing.  We collect the fishery trade management fee from merchants coming to buy fish at market every day. My colleagues who work to control illegal fishing normally patrol along the protected areas of the NT2 reservoir.”


Khaikham recalls that living in her previous village as a single divorcée with a son was physically tough. Working on the farm and finding food in the forest, she had to carry heavy loads and walk very far every day. Today, she appreciates that she can work close to home, and that her son has a chance to be better educated.

“My family’s life is better. We don’t have to work as hard physically. We don’t have to carry water or heavy firewood far away from home. We still work, but not carrying water or laboring under the hot sun. My son’s education is also better. He goes to school more regularly than before, as the school is close by. A secondary school is also available in a nearby village, so he can continue his higher education. I love what I am doing, because, there is only me and my son in the family, so I can’t go out fishing like others. Working on fish processing, I can work in the shade at home and also have time to take care of my child.”

Although some villagers did fish in their old community, it was a minor food source for most, which didn’t provide much income. There were no markets, so fish were caught for family consumption only, and with no electricity, there was no refrigeration. Today, improved road conditions have enabled nearby villagers to access markets, increasing trading and improving the local economy. Khaikham’s fish products are not only sold to restaurants or villagers nearby but also to merchants and tourists from other provinces.