The IFAD imprint in the northernmost province of Ha Giang

Monday, 2019-05-20 14:44:42
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NDO - Ha Giang is a poor rural province located in the northernmost of Vietnam. From 1998 to date, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has funded more than US$45 million for the Province to implement two projects and 1 programme. The selection to support a poor and purely agricultural province is followed the IFAD investment strategy. Objectives and activities of programmes and projects are suited with actual conditions in each period; which is a great motivation for Ha Giang in economic development, hunger elimination, poverty reduction, capacity building and intellectual development.

In 1998, IFAD supported Ha Giang in implementing the Ha Giang Development Project for Ethnic Minorities (HPM), 1998 to 2004 phase. At this time, Ha Giang faced many difficulties in economic development, poverty reduction, and poor infrastructure conditions. Therefore, the HPM activities focused on supporting the generation of livelihoods, addressing short-term needs to improve living standards, tackling food shortages and solving difficulties in essential infrastructure, especially centering on rural roads.

At the end of the project, all its objectives were completed. It has contributed to reducing the poverty rate of the province, by 7% per year on average; raised the capacity on management, hunger eradication and poverty reduction; enhanced people's knowledge and professional qualifications for officials at all levels; improved conditions of essential infrastructure.

The outstanding mark of IFAD in this period was to contribute to changing customs and promoting cattle and buffalo husbandry in upland districts. Before 1998, upland people found difficulties in raising cattle and buffalo due to scarcity of food, especially in the winter.

Ms. Dao Thi Lan Anh, a senior officer of IFAD-funded projects, is currently the Director of Ha Giang Community-based Poverty Reduction Programme (CPRP), recalling: “In 1999, the HPM project funded the model "planting grass for breeding” in Quyet Tien commune (Quan Ba district) and Pa Vi commune (Meo Vac district). Local people were supported with seeds and technical instructions for growing the Guatemala grass. The grass grew well, and even developed over the winter; so it met the demand for cattle feed throughout the year. The model was carried out successfully. To replicate this model, for the next three years, the project continued to provide seeds and technical support to all districts/city for Guatemala planting. The grass areas increased rapidly, meeting the food demand for cattle. When planting grass, local people have removed traditional farming customs, changing from cattle grazing to raising cages, which helped to limit the death of buffalo and cattle due to starvation and cold”.

From a few hectares of grass in Meo Vac and Quan Ba district; Ha Giang now has the largest area of grass for breeding in the country, with more than 24 thousand hectares, which basically meets the food sources for cattle.

In 2005, the IFAD continued to finance Ha Giang to implement the Decentralized Programme for Rural Poverty Reduction (DPPR), in the period of 2005 - 2011. Mr. Be Xuan Dai, the former Director of Ha Giang DPPR, said: The Project investment strategy is to decentralize and empower to implement the task of hunger elimination and poverty reduction. The form of investment was transferred from free giving into conditioned support and revolving lending. People who want to access the project's investment must have a commitment and capital contribution to improve in their responsibilities.

Based on investment strategies and investment forms, the project supported communes to set up production development funds; savings and credit groups to build demonstration models; support revolving loans.

At the end of the investment cycle, more than VND18 billion was provided to 45 poor communes to establish production development funds. More than 7,580 households recieve loans to implement models of livestock and poultry raising; buying new varieties and fertilizers. The project has disbursed more than VND6 billion into establishing 275 savings and credit groups, with 5,000 participants, mostly poor women. Up to now, the production development fund savings and credit groups have been maintained and promoted effectively with dozens of households to borrow for short-term investment.

In 2013, Xin Man district established "the village production development fund". The capital was mobilized from people's contributions, savings and credit fund, investment funds recovered by the DPPR in the period of 2005 - 2011. Mr. Ngo Van Tang, head of Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Xin Man District, said: “At present, all villages in Xin Man district have a production development fund with a total capital of VND24 billion. People get loans quickly, to timely solve short-term investment needs, such as buying seedlings, fingerlings, fertilizers. The fund management and interest rates building were decided by people; so people are conscious of using capital for right purposes and promoting investment efficiency. More than 6,000 turns of poor households have accessed to loans for production development.

In this period, the infrastructure investment served for agriculture and rural areas was implemented in the form of "the State and people work together". The project has completed new constructions and upgraded many works; solved difficulties in transportation and lack of water for production and daily activities; improved hygiene and safety.

Through the decentralization and empowerment to implement investment activities; the capacity of commune/village staff under the project districts was raised, especially the capacity in investment management and building economic development plans. People’s awareness was also raised; they made their own decisions, choose the development direction which suited their local conditions, solved difficulties of their own families.

Currently, Ha Giang province is implementing the Community-based Poverty Reduction Programme (CPRP), for the period of 2015 - 2020. The Programme’s strategic objective is to promote commodity development as per value chains for sustainable poverty reduction, which is suitable for the people’s capacity and meets the market development.

The project focuses its resources to support Ha Giang province in developing value chains for strong local products. At present, 10 value chain plans have been approved and implemented, including: Tea, orange, plantation timber, cattle, honey, cardamom, peanut, pig, fish and high quality rice.

On the last 18th May 2019, Ha Giang province received the geographical indication and registered brand name for upland beef products. Thereby, the upland beef products are protected; with their value being raised. This is just one of many activities that the CPRP has invested in to help the province to implement the cattle - buffalo value chain. Many activities have been implemented such as: building the livestock development plan for the 2016-2020 period; the plan to improve the value of yellow cow in Dong Van plateau; supporting more than 264 households to borrow money for building animal sheds associated with waste water treatment; establishing 169 common interest groups and funding 80 common interest groups on raising cattle and buffalo.

Through three projects invested by the IFAD, activities such as supporting people planting grass for animal raising; supporting people to borrow money to buy reproductive cattle and buffalo; and investing in value chains have helped Ha Giang province achieve the goal of increasing total cattle herds annually. Up to now, the province has over 290.000 heads of buffalo and cows; the output of liveweight cattle/buffaloes reaches around 10.000 tons per year, which contributes to improving farmers’ incomes in upland areas.

The role of enterprises, cooperatives, processing units in commodity production plays an important link in commodity value chains. The IFAD and the province have mechanisms and activities to attract this sector to participate in value chains of agriculture and forestry products through public-private cooperation (P-PC). Currently, the Programme signed a total of 25 contracts, including 12 provincial P-PC contracts with cooperatives/enterprises and 13 district-level P-PC contracts with business households for strong local products such as rice processing, timber, tea, honey, beef, orange, cardamom, peanut, etc.

The Tuan Bang Cooperative in Na Tri commune, Xin Man district was established in 2006. Its business line is tea production and processing. In the past, the Cooperative’s processing capacity was low; thus the Cooperative only purchased a small amount of fresh bud tea from farmers.

Mr. Phan Thanh Tuan, the Director of Tuan Bang Cooperative, said: “Tea material area in 3 communes, named Na Tri, Khuon Lung and Quang Nguyen, is 1,500 ha. With these material areas, the Cooperative has opportunities for investment and development. Therefore, we have an idea of expanding the processing line to consume all fresh bud tea for farmers. However, we found difficulties in the first step because of limited capital. In 2017, this problem was resolved when we accessed the Ha Giang CPRP. We signed a P-PC contract and received over VND2 billion. Together with our own resources, the Cooperative has invested in building workshops, installed modern tea processing lines. Its processing capacity is raised from 10-15 tons of fresh bud tea per day, meeting demands of purchasing all tea in the region".

According to the P-PC contract, the Tuan Bang Cooperative has signed product consumption contracts with 256 households in 3 tea-growing communes in the region. Households signing contracts were provided technical support and capital to care for tea as per clean and organic standards.

In 2018, the Cooperative purchased more than 1,500 tons of fresh bud tea from farmers, with average price of VND8.000 to VND10.000 per kilo. Mr. Phan Thanh Tuan affirmed: “When accessing to the CPRP, the Cooperative was also guided to build a long-term, sustainable production plan; supported on marketing, product promotion, and especially closely associated with tea growers, to ensure raw materials meet production lines”.

Mr. Luc Hai Duong, a tea grower in Tan Son village, Na Tri commune has also benefited from the CPRP. In the past, his tea gardern (with an area of over 1 ha) had low productivity and unstable output, leading to unstable income. Mr. Duong said: “After signing a product consumption contract with Tuan Bang Cooperative, I received technical instructions from the stage of caring, collecting to transporting fresh tea leaves; so tea yield increased about 20% in comparison with previous time. Tea quality was also raised. The Cooperative has committed and purchased all fresh bud tea with a stable price; therefore, with 1 ha of tea, my family gains a stable income of VND25 million per year”.

Up to now, enterprises / cooperatives / business households signing P-PC contracts have basically completed the upgrading of equipment, workshops and warehouses to expand production scale and the consumption of agro-forest products for farmers. Nearly 2.000 households have contracts for product consumption and received technical and financial support for production investment. Product quality has improved; product value was raised with prices from 10% - 20% higher compared to the time without P-PC contracts. In addition, the household production process is more sustainable due to application of clean and organic production processes; thereby contributing to environmental protection.

Through the 3 investment projects in Ha Giang province, the IFAD has played a huge role in economic development and poverty reduction for upland people and ethnic minorities. From 1998 to 2019, a total of 191 out of 195 communes and towns in 11 districts and city have benefited from IFAD investments; which have created positive changes on a large scale and in many fields.

Mr. Nguyen Minh Tien, the Standing Vice Chairman of Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee, affirmed: “The IFAD-funded projects have contributed to improving the staff’s capacity in management, economic development operation, and poverty reduction. The CPRP’s approaches and implementation contents on economic development and poverty reduction always go ahead; with advanced and effective methods, they are lessons learnt for the province to implement and maintain achievements. In villages, communes and districts financed by the IFAD, the poverty reduction target reaches 7% per year on average, which is higher than non-Programme areas”.

Although there have been positive changes in economic development and poverty reduction, Ha Giang still needs investments to solve difficulties in commodity production, build value chains; especially encourage and attract investors in agro-forestry fields. Therefore, it is suggested that the IFAD and the Government should agree early to adopt the cooperation programme for the 2020 – 2025 period, so that Ha Giang can continue to receive investment resources.

According to Mr. Nguyen Minh Tien, the Standing Vice Chairman of Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee, to follow suit with the agricultural production development and poverty reduction in Ha Giang in particular and Vietnam in general, the IFAD’s investment strategy in the next period should focus on supporting production development towards regional links; producing goods according to market approaches; and transforming investment forms, focusing on leading enterprises/ cooperatives operating in fields of agricultural and forestry production in order to create many jobs for people and promote goods production.