Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Women working wonders in Vietnam

Mrs Nguyen Thi Oanh and Mrs Bui Thi Hob
who grow indigenous vegetables in NW Vietnam
(Photo: Vu Thi Hai Hau)
Celebrating International Day of Rural Women, 15 October, Mandy Gyles brings us the story of women growing and marketing indigenous vegetables in Vietnam.

“Since joining the co-operative and learning new production skills our crop has been increasing and our income has grown three fold,” said Mrs Nguyen Thi Oanh (pictured left), a Vietnamese farmer who is now harvesting and selling 100-220 bunches of indigenous vegetables daily.

Mrs Oanh is one of many women in the upland areas of North West Vietnam who collaborated in an ACIAR project with the Vietnamese Women’s Union to increase the safe production, promotion and use of indigenous vegetables.

The focus has been on six crops, including four leafy greens, a taro variety and a bitter melon variety. They are very nutritious and also valued for their medicinal qualities in Vietnam.  The project is taking a whole-of-chain approach from production right through to consumer research and marketing to facilitate practice change by women smallholders.

Artemisia, one of six indigenous vegetables that are the focus of an ACIAR-project
on the safe production, promotion and use of indigenous vegetables
(Photo: S. Newman)

Production

Quality control at Di Thang Cooperative
(Photo: Vu Thi Hai Hau)

“The Plant Protection sub-Department of Phu Tho and Lao Cai have worked very closely with the production and marketing team,” said project leader Dr Suzie Newman. “They also played an important role with the Vietnam Women’s Union in delivering famer business schools training in targeted communes.”

“Another aspect has been helping the women with safe vegetable production to reduce chemicals use, or through using chemicals at the right time. Food safety is becoming highly valued by Vietnamese consumers, particularly in urban high-end markets.”

Marketing

Consumer research, provided insight into taste preferences for H’mong mustard (a vegetable prized for its bitterness) enabling farmers to harvest it at the right stage to satisfy consumers.  A restaurant challenge in the tourist town of Sapa saw restaurants create dishes using the vegetables from the area.

Taste testing dishes cooked using indigenous vegetables in Sapa, NW Vietnam
as part of a marketing exercise of the ACIAR project.
(Photo: S. Newman)
“The Indigenous Products (Di Thang) Cooperative, developed from a farmer marketing group and nurtured by the project marketing team, now has approximately 40 members, and more women farmers are expressing an interest in joining,” Dr Newman said.

ACIAR is funding a second phase of this successful project, with the focus on improving market engagement, profitability and sustainability of smallholder vegetable farmers in north-western Vietnam. The project will particularly focus on women and ethnic minorities engaged in horticultural value chains. 

Australian partnership

The ACIAR project was led by the NSW Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Vietnam Women’s Union which has more than 13 million members. The Australian component has looked at the potential of emerging Asian vegetables (including bitter melon, gogi and gac) and, together with a Horticulture Australia project, has also looked at managing nitrate accumulation in Asian vegetables.

By Mandy Gyles, ACIAR Communications

More information

Project website

More photos of the Indigenous Vietnamese vegetable project

ACIAR's Vietnam Newsletters

Project partners:
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Vietnam Women's Union
Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences

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