HCMC – Many farmers who are ethnic minority people in Van Ho District of the northern mountainous province of Son La have seen their livelihoods improve significantly three years after they participated in a safe vegetable farming project, which is part of Central Retail’s Community Livelihoods program.
A better life
Vang A Sa, a 35-year-old H’Mong man living in the district’s Bo Nhang 2 Village, is manager of the Vang A Sa Agricultural Cooperative. Several years ago, his family earned a living by growing vegetables such as pumpkin and bean on a 1,000-square-meter farm.
Outdated farming methods that were mainly based on their experience, and a lack of good crop varieties led to low yields and low quality. Their products were mainly bought by traders at low prices.
Besides this, there was a lack of connection among farmers and between farmers and trading cooperatives, a value chain and standardized packages and brand for the products. Therefore, Sa’s family was poor although they worked very hard.
Their life reached a turning point in June 2018 when Central Retail and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research chose Van Ho, a poor district in Son La Province that is home to a majority of ethnic minority groups such as Muong, Thai and H’Mong to implement the Community Livelihoods program, which aims to improve local farmers’ incomes and livelihoods by developing sustainable and inclusive vegetable value chains.
By participating in the program, Vang A Sa and other local farmers learned how to grow crops and manage them post-harvest following the Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices accreditation program, which helps ensure food safety and improve product quality and traceability while supporting the health of producers, consumers and the environment.
They were also instructed to diversify their crops, especially high-yield vegetables such as tomato, lettuce and cabbage.
Their products have been sold to Central Retail’s GO! Market or Big C Supermarket chains, which are present in many cities and provinces across the country.
As a result, Vang A Sa and 38 other families in Van Ho District that join the Community Livelihoods program have seen their income double.
Expand the program
Last month, the management board of the Community Livelihoods program, together with representatives from the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, visited the participating households and reviewed how the project has fared over the past three years.
They found that 39 participating households of the Muong, Thai and H’Mong ethnic minority groups have changed how they grow vegetables by adhering to good growing practices and using modern agricultural production techniques that ensure the food is free of food-borne diseases and pathogens.
The farmers have also been able to identify market trends and consumer attitudes toward certified safe vegetables, join the supply chains into supermarkets, access high value markets and earn higher incomes. Furthermore, they have developed their own brands and packages with the logo “Van Ho Safe Vegetable”.
A leader of the Community Livelihoods program in Van Ho District said about 70% of agricultural products produced by the Vang A Sa Agricultural Cooperative are sold to Central Retail’s GO! Market or Big C Supermarket chains.
The products include pumpkin, winter melon, sweet potato, white radish, cabbage, cucumber, string bean, and turnip among others, helping the cooperative earn some VND300 million per month.
Commenting on the program’s results, Nguyen Thi Phuong, deputy general director of Central Retail, said the project has brought about significant economic changes after only a short time of implementation.
The smallholder farmers, who are ethnic minority people, can now earn VND50-60 million per hectare, doubling their income prior to the project. By growing high-yield and off-season products, they are able to cultivate vegetables all year round instead of only six months like before.
“The Community Livelihoods program has helped the poor farmers in remote and border areas reach out to high value markets and change their life,” she said.
Community Livelihoods is one of Central Retail’s initiatives that demonstrates the group’s contribution to improving Vietnamese people’s life quality. The program goes in line with the Government’s Target Program for Poverty Reduction in the 2016-2020 period.
The program has been implemented in seven regions of six provinces including Quang Ngai, Son La, Binh Dinh, Thua Thien Hue, Lao Cai and Bac Kan, benefiting more than 500 households. Phuong said Central Retail has planned to expand the program to other localities across the country in the coming time.
By Le Hoang