Bamboo straws from the jungles

In remote mountainous areas of Huong Hoa district, Quang Tri province, the Bru – Van Kieu ethnic minority people collect bamboo from craggy rocks along streams of the Truong Son mountain strips. Bamboo stems are cut into pieces of 20cm length and cleanly processed and sun-dried, turning them into environment-friendly products. They are bamboo straws.

With the support from MCNV, three bamboo straw production groups with the participation of 21 households are now operating well in Huong Hoa. Each group can produce on average 5,000 bamboo straws per month in response to specific orders, resulting in better income for the participating households. MCNV’s assistance includes: Training on production and group management; Provision of bamboo cutting machines and some other devices; Development of bamboo material areas; and Quality control & Market linkage. For the past 6 months, the production of bamboo straws has generated an extra income of 75 million VND for these households, enabling them to cover costs for their children, as well as family daily expenses.

Production of bamboo straws is part of a MCNV’s project in support of ethnic minority adolescent girls. In remote mountainous villages of Huong Hoa district in Quang Tri, along the frontier area between Vietnam and Lao PDR, adolescent girls are facing serious and long-lasting problems: school dropout, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy at adolescence, joblessness and lack of income. These problems badly put long-lasting impacts on the girls’ lives and future. Tackling these problems requires comprehensive interventions, including awareness raising and behavior change communication on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and child marriage, life-skills development for adolescents,  improvement of the quality of and access to health and educational services, material support, vocational training and job creation. Above all, poverty is seen as a root cause of the girls’ problems. It is, therefore, important to help adolescent girls’ families have more stable jobs and extra income, enabling them to better support the adolescent girls. Producing and selling bamboo straws becomes a good solution for income generation, and at the same time responds to the current trend of using plastic-free products for environment protection as an added value.

In the coming time, MCNV expects to collaborate with enterprises and organisations having interest in non-plastic products to help the production groups develop many more products from bamboo, such as cutleries and decorative furniture. By creating bamboo products in replacement of plastic products for daily use, not only do the Bru Van Kieu indigenous people in Huong Hoa improve the girls’ lives, they are also making a meaningful contribution to the social change.