Livelihood & Climate Change

Zoom in on a life-changing project in Binh Dai (Ben Tre province)

In over the last 10 years, in Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, there is a project that has been providing life-changing instrument for thousands of women to rise against poverty…

From poverty to financial independence

In the past, Ms. Truong Thi Phuong (born in 1972) and her husband, residents of Phu Thanh Hamlet, Phu Vang Commune, Binh Dai District, Ben Tre province used to made a living out of a small vegetables garden and some seasonal jobs, which generated a modest amount of income.

Despite being diligent, they still struggled to make ends meet. When their children got into college, the couple were over the moon but also extremely worried. The kids would have a brighter future than their parents but how could they manage to pay for their four-year tuition fees and other expenses in the city.

Ms.Truong Thi Phuong and her grocery store.

Phuong’s family life came to a turning point in 2015, when she became member of the Women Union of Phu Vang Commune and began to get accesss to the Micro Credit and Saving project, implemented by the Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV) and sponsors.

With the loan provided by the project, Phuong and her husband shortly sleeved up to find their ways out of poverty. Part of the cash was spent on poultry rearing, while the rest was invested in launching a small grocery store.

“At the beginning, due to my lack of experiences, we faced a lot of challenges”, Phuong recalled.

Fortunately, thanks to active participation in science and technology transfer workshops held by local Women Union, Phuong and her husband soon acquired fundamental knowledges in farming as well as doing business. Step by step, their ‘startup’ started to yield profits, providing a stable source of income, and at the same time, could be used as capital to feed new investment.

After several microcredit cycles, following the advices of project staff and the senior members of local Women Union, Phuong bought a cow which later gave birth to two calves. After deducting all costs of rearing, they earned around VND tens million annually.

Since the rearing was not time-consuming, Phuong’s husband spent the rest of his day on some part-time jobs such as bricklaying, fishing, which earned him VND few hundred thousand per day.

After 5 years of participating in the Micro Credit and Saving project of Binh Dai district, Ms. Truong Thi Phuong and her husband have filed for crossing their name in the poor households list.

From the bottom where the couple could not make ends meet, now they have secured stable and sufficient income. As the two children have graduated from colleges and have found jobs, the family is free from worries about livelihoods. Their old wobbly house has been renovated into a fully furnished one.

Phuong also has more time for community activities. She is very enthusiastic about sharing her experience in doing business with her neighbors, fellows, and lending supports to those in need.

“‘A stitch in time saves nine’, more than anyone, I understand what it is like to live in poverty. At the moment, I am willing to help anyone in need”, she said.

Striving from the bottom, she is always grateful for what the Micro Credit and Saving project and her fellows have done to support her.

Freshwater security against salinity

Ben Tre is severely affected by saline intrusion. Illustration photo: VNA

Located in the Mekong delta region, Ben Tre is severely affected by saline intrusion. Even local water plants are affected with salinity of 2 grammes.

Located on an islet, Binh Dai district’s four sides were surrounded by rivers and seas, making the area more vulnerable to saline intrusion (high salinity, deep intrusion level). Local residents are facing huge challenges as saline intrusion negatively affected agricultural production and daily life.

In the fierce battle against salinity, Binh Dai district was lucky enough to receive aid from the Micro Credit and Saving project. Along with providing loans to support livelihoods, the project has also assisted poor, nearly poor, and disadvantaged households to build water containers and purchase rainwater and freshwater storing tanks for daily life and production.

Ms.Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh and her water container.

“In 2016, I registered for a loan of VND five million to build two 4m3 water containers; the costs for materials and workers was around VND six million …” , said Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh (Tan Long hamlet, Thanh Phuoc commune).

According to Oanh, thanks to the project, her family could store enough freshwater to use for the whole year. In the dry season, the family consume more well water therefore they always have extra stock of rainwater.

Being aware of the benefit in the long run, in 2018, Oanh continued to take a new loan of VND five million to build two 6m3 water containers, the two cost around VND seven million.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao (born in 1985) lives in Vinh Tan hamlet, Vang Quoi Dong commune is another beneficiary of the project. Thank to the 6m3 rainwater, freshwater container, her three-member family now can feel secured during drought season.

 “Because saline intrusion occurs every year, I decided to build container to store rainwater or freshwater for daily use. In 2016, I filed for a VND five million in 24 months to build two containers. I was thrilled as they were so helpful. Without them, we would have had to use saltwater like the previous years, which negatively affects sanitation. I am going to borrow some more to build another two containers. If salinization persists, I am afraid that there will not be enough freshwater…” 

  • The Micro Credit and Saving project in Binh Dai district was launched by MCNV and sponsors in 2009.
  • The project has been expanded to 11 communes and townships, providing financial services and facilitate socio-economic inclusion for over 5,000 disadvantaged and poor women, supporting household economy development, response to saltwater intrusion and new rural development.
  • The project has so far provided 954 households with loan to construct their own water containers. From the beginning of the year, 149 households have received the supports, leading to more registration for loan. 
  • Nowadays, the project has become financially self-sustained, and is being conducted with the permission of the State Bank of Vietnam, Ben Tre provincial branch.
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Skill training benefits members of credit groups in Binh Dai (Ben Tre province)

15 credit group leaders and prospective clients of the Micro Credit and Saving project in Binh Dai district, Ben Tre province have recently completed a 3-day workshop on microfinance skills.

The three-day workshop equips trainees with relevant knowledge and skills.

The training aims to provide trainees with relevant knowledge in micro credit, including the access to loan, financial services and the effective use of capital, contributing to poverty alleviation and economic development in the locality.

During the three-day workshop (February 17-19th), local-based project coordinators helped 15 trainees gain fundamental understanding of ‘credit’, ‘credit group’ concept ; provided guidance on how to develop, manage and coordinate credit groups as well as introduction to Microfinance (purpose, target clients, loan policy, etc).

The workshop also included a Q&A session, in which the trainers provided answer for trainees’ enquiries on how to solve the problems they encountered while leading/participating in a credit group.

In addition, the trainees were also instructed on bookkeeping, as well as other skills in a field-trip to learn about credit management in real life.

Better financial knowledge and skills can help change the lives of many women and their families.

“We expect that all of the trainees will become helpful assistants of Binh Dai district project management board in the time to come”, said Ms.Vo Thi Be Hai, Deputy Head of the Project management board.

  • The Micro Credit and Saving project in Binh Dai district was launched by MCNV and sponsors in 2009.
  • The project has been expanded to 11 communes and townships, providing financial services and facilitate socio-economic inclusion for over 5,000 disadvantaged and poor women, supporting household economy development, response to saltwater intrusion and new rural development.
  • Nowadays, the project has become financially self-sustained, and is being conducted with the permission of the State Bank of Vietnam, Ben Tre provincial branch.

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Nutrition sensitive agriculture in Lao PDR and Vietnam

Background

Despite significant development progress in recent years, hunger remains a significant problem in Lao PDR, with 44% of children under 5 years old being malnourished placing their lives at risk and damaging their lifelong health. This issue is particularly severe in Nong District, one of the poorest areas in Lao PDR, and where the people can suffer food shortages for many months in the year. To tackle these problems MCNV takes a nutrition-sensitive approach to its agricultural and livelihoods work within some of poorest villages in the district.

MCNV’s responses

This approach seeks to maximize agricultures contribution to nutrition and recognizes the multiple benefits derived from enjoying a varied and nutritious diet, the social significance of food and the importance of agriculture in supporting rural livelihoods. Instead of focusing exclusively on crop production for the market, villagers use their land to cultivate a variety of commodities including fruits, vegetables, small livestock and fish. In Nong, MCNV has supported this approach by supporting the development of fish ponds, providing seeds and equipment for home gardens and strengthening village veterinary services to ensure healthy livestock. MCNV’s approach to agriculture also entails promoting gender equity, and providing nutrition education so that household resources are used to improve nutrition, especially that of women and young children. For example, the approach looks at the division of labour between men and women, to ensure mothers have enough time to breastfeed their infants. Finally, MCNV adopts a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition linking agriculture to sectors that address other causes of malnutrition, namely education, health and social protection.

Achievements

Through working in partnership with organisations ranging from village development committees to the Ministries of Agriculture, MCNV has improved agricultural production whilst preserving the soil, land and water that villagers depend upon, but most importantly it has helped to reduce hunger and malnutrition improving the health of children with lifelong benefits.

Future direction

In the coming years MCNV is working with the Food and Business Knowledge Platform and VU University in the Netherlands to conduct research into the impacts of nutrition-sensitive agriculture to ensure that it can be scaled-up so many more people in Lao PDR and elsewhere can benefit from this approach.

http://knowledge4food.net/research-project/scaling-up-nutrition-sensitive-agricultural-initiatives-in-vietman-and-laos/

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