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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Collaboration And Networking To Enhance Education and Nutrition (CANTEEN)

Background

Improvement on nutrition and food security continues to be MCNV’s work priorities in Laos and especially in the areas where more ethnic minority groups are living. Nutrition and food security are closely interlinked and requires multi-sectoral approach as per the 8th National Social Economic Development Plan by the Government of Lao PDR, which states: “Nutrition is one of the sectors that faces challenges in the implementation since it is associated with several sectors such as food security, food access and food consumption. To counter these, it requires effective collaboration and shared responsibilities among the concerned agencies including sector of health, education, agriculture, environment, industry and commerce, etc.[1]”.

MCNV’s response

In Lao PDR, MCNV has recently started CANTEEN programe (Collaboration And Networking To Enhance Education and Nutrition). This is a 4.5 year-program (between Jan 2017 – June 2021), which is funded with 75% budget contribution by the EU delegation to strengthen the capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Local Authorities (LAs) to work in partnership towards the achievement of development goals. The programme has two specific objectives as follows:

  1. To build the capabilities of at least 6 LAs, 1 non-profit association (NPA) and 20 village development committees (VDCs) to work together to deliver nutrition sensitive services that improve food security, nutrition, and overall well-being of more than 6,000 poor ethnic minority people in 20 remote upland villages in Nong District, Savannakhet province.
  2. To strengthen capacity in policy dialogue and promote participation, transparency and accountability in multi-sector partnerships to encourage the uptake of successful models and to increase involvement of CSOs in development processes.

CANTEEN works closely with CODA (a Lao NPA – non for profit association) and Provincial Health Department of Savannakhet province to promote collective and coordinative working among different local authority organisations and community based organization in Nong district to work together for improvement in nutrition and food security at village and district levels. The experience and lesson learnt from such multisectoral coordination will contribute to and be shared with other stakeholders at provincial and national levels who are working together to improve the situation of nutrition and food security in Lao PDR.

Expected results

During its 4.5 years implementation, CANTEEN program will support a range of activities in order to achieve the following expected results:

Expected result 1.1: Strengthened capacities of the participating LAs, CSOs and CBOs to deliver relevant, effective nutrition services to marginalised and vulnerable people, in particular women and children: This focuses on strengthening capacities of participating CSO and LA organisations and their staffs and members. The specific paths for capacity-building will be designed based on analysis of current gaps and future needs of each participating organisation. For the 20 participating Village Development Committees (CBOs) the Action will use a small-grant support scheme to help them improve their skills by practicing a full cycle of small experimental projects.

Expected result 1.2Reduced malnutrition and food insecurity in target villages through adoption of convergent approaches that include key stakeholders in health, agricultural and education sectors: This is designed specifically to demonstrate effectiveness of the convergent approach in reducing the incidences of malnutrition and food insecurity in the selected villages. This emphasises the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. All sectoral interventions (i.e. educational, agricultural or health) are designed for nutrition sensitivity and are aimed at generating evidence on how to contribute to reduction of food insecurity and malnutrition. The proposed interventions under this refer to 14 of the 22 priority actions identified in the recently published National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016- 2020, designed to reduce malnutrition rapidly and sustainably with an emphasis on gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Expected result 2.1: Increased effectiveness of institutional environment for CSOs and LA, with stronger networks that have better capacity to advocate for sustainable approaches using evidence arising from the action. This will show the up-scaled and sustainable interventions in Nong District, using evidence-based advocacy to argue for their replication, adaptation and adoption in other areas of Lao PDR. It will strengthen links with civil society networks such as the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)-Alliance. This adds value to GoL’s plans, as it currently is expanding the rollout of convergent approaches to other provinces, including Savannakhet, and will be seeking evidence and support for effective implementation and expansion.

[1] The Five Year National Social Economic Development Plan VIII – 2016 – 2020: part I: 7th NSEDP 2011-2015: achievement and lessons learned. Lao PDR.

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