Come join the MELA!
Participants of the SDC Face-to-Face Workshop in Hanoi have agreed to establish the Mekong Extension Learning Alliance, or MELA.
The theme of the Workshop was ‘Reaching the Millions’, which was highly relevant to planners and practitioners in the Mekong Region, which is home to 225 million people, more than 60% of whom are living in rural areas.
The Mekong River passes through five countries in South East Asia: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Agricultural extension and rural advisory services in this Region have many features in common. Investment, trade, expertise and labour are flowing from one country to another, while social and environmental impacts are also crossing national boundaries.
Four of the five Mekong countries were represented at the workshop. These participants recognised the value of regional networking and have agreed to meet again to share experience and explore opportunities for further cooperation. Together they aim to better serve the millions of small farmers in the Region, so that rural families may overcome poverty and have better livelihoods.
The name MELA is very appropriate for this network, being a Sanskirt word meaning ‘a gathering’ or ‘large meeting’.
Representatives from Laos have agreed to convene the first meeting of MELA in August this year with support from the LURAS project. Meanwhile, the representatives from Vietnam agreed to create a Facebook Page as a channel of communication. Those from Cambodia and Myanmar will act as focal points for their countries, and invitations will also be sent to relevant organisations in Thailand, which were not represented at the workshop in Hanoi.
The first meeting of MELA will have three objectives:
- Define common interests of members
- Discuss a draft charter for the network
- Agree a work plan for next 12 months
The outcome of the first MELA meeting will be shared at the Annual Meeting of GFRAS, the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services, to be held in Kyrgyzstan in September this year.
 Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS), funded by SDC and implemented by the Lao Department of Agricultural Extension and Cooperative (DAEC), in collaboration with Helvetas and SNV.
Watch the first MELA video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNKQUna9xiA