Planting trees in an area of landslide due to the 2020 historic floods
MCNV in cooperation with the Deutsche Forstservice GmbH (DFS), Forest Science Center for North of Central Vietnam (FSCV), and Dong Ha High School organized an “Eduction on Nature and Environment” tour to MCNV’s project site in Huong Hoa district of Quang Tri province, Vietnam on the 30th of July 2022.
Thirty nine students of Dong Ha High School, accommpanied with their teachers and parents in Dong Ha city were the targets of the education tour. The program’s aim was to provide deep understanding of the value of nature including ecosystems and forests, evoking awareness of climate change, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development, and enable the students opportunities to take actions.
“Things in here were quite totally new and strange to me”, Tran Nguyen Phi Uyen – a 17-year-old school girl confessed. “At the time I entered into the forest, I felt anxious and a bit scared of leeches and so [coyly smiling], just like many friends of mine joining in the tour. However, beside the learnt lessons of the nature and environment, I think those were good moments for us to learn to face fears and overcome obstacles.”
“I am really impressive of this education tour,” said Hoang Van Minh – Vice Principal of Dong Ha High School. “All the students live in Dong Ha city and hadn’t known about forests and life and culture of indigenous communities. Now they’ve got great experiences. As far as I know, this kind of education tour has first been organized in Quang Tri province, and we expect many more tours of this would serve a greater number of students in the coming time.”
Article on the Vietnam Investment Review. Author: Nguyen Dinh Dai, MCNV Chief of Central Vietnam Office
The government has recently approved a project worth $3.55 billion to develop the forestry sector in a sustainable manner in the 2021-2025 period. This legal framework aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the implementation of Vietnam’s net-zero commitments. To achieve the targets, the forestry sector and local government require strategic implementation and good practices in the field. This will be carried out through partnerships with donors such as the EU, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), WWF Vietnam, and MCNV.
The province of Quang Tri has created strategic results in sustainable forestry development thanks to the support from international organisations, and there are already many interesting stories regarding this.
One regards promoting market links on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) between smallholders and enterprises. Nhien Thao is a local enterprise in Quang Tri province that produces natural-based products such as shampoo, floor cleaning liquids, and dishwashing liquid. NTFPs including soap, black locust seeds, and essential oils are key raw materials for the production of the enterprise.
Currently, Nhien Thao is collaborating with about 150 smallholder forest owners in supplying NTFPs with a value of about $75,000 annually. These smallholders are managing hundreds of hectares of natural forest where they can harvest different kinds of NTFP such as soap nuts, black locust seeds, pomelo, and limes. The enterprise is planning to expand its business and network with smallholders.
In April 2022, the enterprise was awarded the prize of best natural business solutions by the New Generation Plantation and WWF Vietnam. This is a win-win business model for the smallholders and enterprises in contributing to sustainable forest management.
Another example is the long-rotation plantation for tung oil production. It is estimated about 1,500 tonnes of dry tung oil seeds are harvested annually with a value of $650,000 in Quang Tri province. Since 2020, the PROSPER project (on promoting sustainable partnerships between civil organisations and enterprises for sustainable forest management in the context of climate change), co-funded by the EU and MCNV, has supported smallholders in planting about 300ha of tung oil plantation mixed with indigenous species in Quang Tri province.
Tung oil plantation has contributed to forest protection and annual income for smallholder forest owners from harvesting tung oil seed.
With the support of the USAID, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is planning a 5-year strategy for tung oil plantations. This model will contribute directly to annual income for smallholders, increasing forestry cover ratio and carbon capture from the long-rotation of tung oil plantations.
Within the PROSPER project, for the first time in Vietnam, two natural forests of smallholders in Huong Hoa district have earned FSC certification on sustainable forest management, in which three bamboo species are certified FSC. In 2022, the project targets to achieve certification for carbon capture, bio-diversity, and rattan.
By December 2020, about 20,000ha of natural forest had been allocated to smallholders in Quang Tri province, in which around one-third received the Payment of Forest Environment Service for forest protection. The rest of the forests are protected voluntarily by smallholder forest owners. The piloted model on FSC-certified ecosystem services offers potential for smallholder forest owners in accessing payment mechanisms for forest ecosystem services and the high-value market of NTFPs of FSC-certified rattan and bamboo.
This association of smallholder forest certification was established in 2014, supported by WWF Vietnam. The association is a representative for smallholder forest owners in FSC certification for acacia plantations and has been a link between IKEA suppliers and smallholder forest owners in supplying FSC-certified wood.
In 2020, under the support of PROSPER, for the first time, the association recruited new natural forest owners as members. This achievement brought a new direction in promoting sustainable forest management of smallholders in both plantations but also the natural forest.
Quang Tri province is considered one of the pioneers in sustainable forestry development strategies. The concrete practices in the field are significant to show scaling up in the aspect of implementing the programme on sustainable forestry development until 2025./.
Visiting an agroforestry coffee farm of an ethnic farmer
On the 2nd of May 2022, a delegation of Hoi An Roastery (HAR) paid a field visit to Quang Tri province of Vietnam with an aim to investigate market expansion and scale up linkages with coffee producers in the Arabica coffee production hub in Huong Phung commune.
The HAR’s delegates included the owner of HAR Europe BV, Tjarco van Raad (Director of HAR – Europe BV, Caroline de Bruijne (Sales and Marketing Director of HAR Europe BV), Rudy van Bork (Executive Director of HAR in Vietnam) and Davis Dawson IV Ferdinand (Sales Director of HAR in Vietnam).
MCNV is a long-standing partner of HAR and in the past years facilitator of the coffee value chain of HAR, local processor and coffee producers . At a joint meeting with MCNV, HAR’s members were thoroughly updated on the contract farming and visited MCNV’s museum and project sites.
The delegates visited coffee farms, and met up with coffee producers and processor to discuss the sustainable cooperation through the deployment of Stage 2 of the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development bankable project of “Agroforestry coffee production of Hoi An Roastery & Arabica Coffee Smallholders in Quang Tri province, Vietnam”.
MCNV recently joined with local authorities in organizing an event to kick start community-based ecotourism in combination with FSC®-certified sustainable forest management in Chenh Venh village, Huong Phung commune, Huong Hoa district. The event brought together representatives of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism, the Forest control department and the Center of Investment, Trade and Tourism Promotion of Huong Hoa district and relevant departments.
The event was a chance for the participants to expose to exotic eco-tourism services directly provided by Chenh Venh village, such as visiting the campsite in Sa Muoi hill, Chenh Venh waterfall and stream, trekking through natural forests managed by the community, Ro Ve village picnic site while learning about the indigenous cultures embodied in local authentic dishes and performing arts.
In order to put the entire ecotourism services into operation, MCNV and the People’s Committee of Huong Hoa district and Huong Phung commune have spent the last six months assisting Chenh Venh village and the Community Forest Board of the village in the preparation process. Key support includes: converting local residential houses into homestay, installing camping infrastructures (tents, bedding ), restoring the stream bank landscape, installing sign boards, building sanitary facilities, providing training on community-based tourism services, culinary skills, etc.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Chair of Huong Hoa district People’s Committee, Mr. Pham Trong Ho highlighted the advantages of Chenh Venh village in developing community- based tourism, thanks to its magnificent natural landscape and distinctive indigenous culture. He also appreciated MCNV’s practical support, which is believed will lay out a solid foundation for the development of ecotourism in combination with sustainable forest management in the long run.
According to Mr. Nguyen Dinh Dai, Chief of MCNV Office in Quang Tri province, Chenh Venh village comprises nearly 100 Bru Van Kieu households who oversee up to 1,000 hectare of forest. The jobs created and income generated from non-timber products, community-based tourism and ecosystem services play a significant role in helping the locals manage and protect the forest more effectively.
Thanks to PROSPER project by MCNV and the European Union, in 2021, the community forests in Chenh Venh village and Ho village (Huong Son commune) have become Vietnam’s first community forests that received the FSC® certificate issued by the World Council of Forest.
In the time to come, MCNV will continue to support Chenh Venh village in maintaining and developing community-based tourism. In detail, MCNV will help connect the beneficiaries with sponsors and responsible enterprises who are willing to pay for ecosystem services provided by this community, such as carbon absorption, biodiversity and water conservation./.
The Fruit Quality project introduction workshop was held on January 21st, 2022.
With total value of 906,665 euro, nearly half of which is funded by the Dutch Goverment via the Netherland Enterprise Agency (RVO), the project aims to improve the quality of the dragon fruit, grape fruits and mango in four provinces: Dong Thap, Long An, Ben Tre and Binh Thuan.
Key interventions focus on applying advanced cultivation techniques and capacity building for farmers households and the supporting systems. The project recipient is the Vietnam Farmer’s Union, the representative of 11 million farmers in Vietnam
The new techniques in terms of soil testing, fertigation system, plant protection chemicals and linkage to export markets will be transferred and introduced by well-known technical partner Dutch companies (Eurofins, YARA, Bayer, Prins, etc) and various knowledge institutes of Vietnam.
As part of the project, trial fields will be established at several farms, to support awareness raising and training of farmers. At the same time, 72 capacity-building workshops will be provided to approximately 600 farmers, 12 business connecting and knowledge sharing events.
In 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Mekong River Delta regarding the Agricultural Transition were signed by the government of Vietnam and the Netherlands.
In alignment with the Mekong Delta Agricultural Transformation Plan 2021-2030, with a vision toward 2050, the project sets long-term goal of transforming the farming systems and fruits export to ensure sustainable growth and generating jobs, as well as fostering win-win partnership between Dutch enterprises and Vietnamese counterparts.
If these goals are attained, the project will contribute to Vietnam-Netherlands strategic cooperation./.
Entrepreneurship is about leadership, innovatively, creativity and about envisioning and exploiting possibilities. Several programs have shown the positive influence of entrepreneurship on poor and marginalised people. When they find ways of earning money they feel respected, it helps them to get into daily routines, and it makes them proud to be able to contribute money to their families and communities. The development of different types of Community managed Development Funds combined with entrepreneurship trainings and trainings on financial literacy, have already assisted thousands of people to improve their living conditions. MCNV plans to increase activities in the field of entrepreneurship especially in Vietnam.
The market economy offers a proportion of marginalized people chances to escape their poverty. However, many face barriers of access, lack necessary capabilities or do not recognize, or even believe, that they have chances. For this reason it is important for MCNV to study and take into account how local market systems work and identify barriers and facilitators for access by marginalized groups. The work with market systems takes various forms in different programs/projects, and at different levels of development.
Almost all ethnic minorities were dependent on self-subsistence farming and have increasingly come into contact with ‘the markets’. First the traders came via the new roads (opened for ‘development’) to them from elsewhere to buy agricultural products at the farm gate. But after that these traders established shops right in the farmers’ communities and used their knowledge and networks to become ‘middlemen’ between the local producers and outside markets. The impact of these middlemen is manifold: on the one hand they help poor farmers creating new sources of income, new crops and agricultural knowledge, but on the other hand it is in their interest to keep the farmers dependent on them, for instance via debt traps and protecting their local monopolies. In the Community-Managed Health and Livelihood Development project in Khanh Hoa province (2004-2016), MCNV has worked long with ethnic minority communities to help them increase their aspiration, self-confidence and knowledge and to gradually reduce their dependencies on the middlemen, as well as on the local government.
A next step in ‘working with the market to alleviate marginalisation and poverty’ is best illustrated by MCNV’s Microfinance projects, such as that managed by the Women’s Union in Ben Tre, where poor women groups learn to save and invest money to set up and grow small businesses. Basic “financial literacy” is often lacking among the marginalised target groups and therefore MCNV is building this capacity among many groups, like for Disabled People’s Organisations to know how they could act best to maintain and gradually grow their Revolving Funds.
Many further steps are needed to make the market work best for the poor. A large majority of Vietnamese farmers are small-holder farmers who certainly do not lack entrepreneurship or financial literacy, but they are poorly organised, which significantly decreases the influence and the “Value Chains” of their products. In Quang Tri province, Vietnam, MCNV is developing relationships with farmer’s cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. In the near future, MCNV intends to link these initiatives to farmer groups and value chain development in neighbouring area’s in Lao PDR, thus enhancing cross-border value chain development.
The serious drought and salinity in Ben Tre other Mekong river delta provinces of Vietnam in the beginning of 2016 was declared as a natural disaster by the government. The shortage of fresh water for human consumption and agricultural production is especially affecting poor people living near the coastal areas.
A family lacks fresh water
Global Climate change is increasingly making direct impacts on the living situation of huge numbers of people in developing countries whose livelihoods depend strongly on natural conditions. People who earn their living from agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture are the most vulnerable. Natural events such as typhoons, floods, droughts and saline intrusion are happening more often and more intensely in recent years, eroding people’s assets and investments and pushing many back into poverty. The salinity in the main rivers (4‰ isohaline) had intruded about 45-65km from river mounths and the whole of Ben Tre province was covered by water with a salinity of 1‰. More than 20,000ha of rice in Spring-Summer crop had been lost. About 8,500 ha of fruit trees were partly damaged by the drought and salinity. More than 98,000 households (about 400,000 people) lack fresh water because they do not have enough containers to store rain water.
MCNV quickly responded to the climate change issues in Ben Tre for the poorest people who are suffering most from the drought and salinity. The aim of MCNV is to create a sustainable mechanism which could help the poor maintain and step by step adapt their livelihoods to the more difficult natural conditions.
From May 2016, MCNV provided loans to help families to build big water containers to retain more rain water for human consumption during dry season. Loans from MCNV microfinance project in Binh Dai district allow poor family to build high capacity water container of about 3m3 each. Loans should be paid back monthly over 12 to 24 months so that it is convenient also for the poor. Up to August 2016, 150 households have borrowed from the MCNV project to build 286 big water containers with total capacity of 858m3. The loans for water containers will be available throughout this year and in coming years to create access for the poor to store more fresh water. Many more people can be supported by loans than with one time grant support.
A mushroom production workshop
With financial support from Jumpstart Foundation, MCNV collaborates with the Ben Tre provincial Women’s Union to establish women cooperatives, which provide stable jobs and income for poor women. These jobs help poor families to adapt to climate change by reducing their dependency on farming. Five women cooperatives will be established in Binh Dai and Ba Tri district for the production of mushrooms and dried fish, that will create jobs for at least 100 poor women. These cooperations will be the first test for more productive models for poor women in the future.
MCNV would like to establish a livelihood adaptation knowledge website to share our field experience to help poor communities to improve their livelihoods by adapting to climate change. We believe this could be very helpful for other places and people who are facing the same problems.
At the same time, MCNV also looks for Corporate Social Responsibility programs to supply water containers to kindergartens, commune health centers and friendship houses for extreme poor people in Ben Tre. Creative trainings on adapted livelihoods should be provided widely to raise awareness for everyone to better prepare them for unavoidable climate change.
First members of dried fish women cooperative
Climate change impacts on livelihoods are very complex and many more poor communities will need comprehensive support to adapt to new situations. MCNV expects to find additional development partners to do practical field research and bring innovative methods that could help poor communities to stablise their lives and overcome the additional challenges from climate change.
This intervention records the first foot print of MCNV into the Climate Change sector. MCNV commits to support poor communities to adapt their livelihoods with best effective and innovative approaches to make this effort sustainable and helpful to poor people.
Microfinance – A sustainable engine for development
Impacts of microfinance to the poor
At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a commitment “to eradicate poverty everywhere, in all its forms and dimensions by 2030”. Inspired from this goal, all MCNV programs in Vietnam are committed to contribute to poverty alleviation efforts by integrating microfinance tools to support marginalized groups who are normally the poorest in their community. Over the past 10 years, MCNV has disbursed micro finance services including loans for production and water retention, savings, and health insurance, to more than 7000 households with the total value of more than 650,000Euro in programs in Vietnam.
Microfinance has proved to be one of the most powerful engines in the global effort to end the crushing poverty that deprives hundreds of millions of the world’s people of sustenance and hope. Microfinance gives poor people the opportunity to establish an existence and to create a future with prospects.
MCNV loan allow her to build water containers to save rain water to prepare for draught and salinity
Micro loans, saving and other financial services in combination with financial literacy trainings could greatly help the poor start-up their micro-businesses to generate income . This would provide the clients and their families with greater qua
ntities and more nutritious foods, education for their children and to the opportunity to improve their houses. Consequently, microfinance has an impact on the future generations.
Microfinance has a positive impact far beyond the individual household. Jobs are created, knowledge is shared, civic participation increases, and women are recognized as valuable members of their families and communities. Microfinance could also improve the community solidarity and connection between people.
An equally important part of microfinance is the revolving mechanism in using funds from donors so if microfinance is managed well, it could allow a certain amount of funding to serve more and more poor families. These funds would be more beneficial longer term so the impacts will be multiplied in comparison with other kind of development grants.
An extreme poor old lady received a friendship house built from MCNV microfinance projects in Ben Tre 2015
Micro-entrepreneurship is the key for the poor’s self-empowerment. It turns the poor from a passive and weak role in the development process to active agents of change. The personal talents and community support are fully mobilized for business development and this process is the best capacity building for those who are poor. Microfinance directly impacts and benefits women’s empowerment since microfinance particularly focus on women and gradually consolidates the role and capacity of women in family and in the community.
In recent decades, the microfinance crises have showed that microfinance could harm the development if being used in an extreme way. So MCNV is making its effort to balance the social and financial performance of microfinance projects by using Social Performance Management (SPM) system. Applying the SPM permits microfinance assist the poor to escape poverty while ensuring the whole microfinance system runs as healthy as a double bottom-line financial institute.
MCNV also wants to share and expand the best practice in microfinance and social performance management to other organizations and communities. We look forward to like-minded partners and donors to promote the real microfinance with focus on social performance and sustainability.