CARE’s Monitoring and Evaluation Focal Point, Ms. Bui Bich Ha, shares with us what she has learnt about a participant in a coffee project.

Tong Van Hoan lives in Ang Nua commune (Muong Ang district, Dien Bien province), where coffee is the main source of income. Born into a family of many children whose father is a factory worker and mother a farmer, Hoan decided to study agriculture in a hope that, at least, he would have the knowledge to help himself and his family. Now married with a daughter, in addition to his full time job as an extension worker, he also takes care of the family’s coffee farm and poultry as every other farmer around him.

Tong Van Hoan is demonstrating how to explain agro-climate information to farmers during a CARE training session. Photo: Giang Vu/CARE

A demonstration of change

The extension worker joined the Australian-funded project, Technologically Enhanced Agricultural Livelihoods (TEAL), in January 2018. His role is to promote gender equality in the community and raise farmers’ knowledge in new techniques in growing, harvesting and processing coffee. All is to enable ethnic minority women’s role and contribution to be recognised by their own family, community and other stakeholders. Another aim is to help them reap the economic benefits they well deserve in the Arabica value chain.

Via the project, Hoan has participated in various training on gender equality topics and community facilitation. They prove useful in his professional work and private life alike.

Hoan usually starts his day with feeding the pigs and chickens and washing clothes before going to the office. His wife works as a school cleaner. She oftens leaves home early and comes home later than him. He used to be shy in doing housework although he wanted to. Now he’s willing to do so and finds it common in his village.

We talk to each other about the things we do. Whatever it is, it should fit [both of us]. If one is as old-fashioned as before and would marry a woman so that she would to all the work, then one’s life would be even harder. Whatever I can do to help my wife, I’m willing to.”

Tong Van Hoan

By sharing his own experience, he has inspired many more to follow his example. He would tell others, “Thanks to joining [project] activities, I start doing housework,” “Housework is also men’s work. At home I do it all.”

“For me, I have learnt so much when joining the project because I used to be very shy. Now I can stand with confidence in front of others. I also didn’t know how to give feedback to people, so I would sometimes be upset or get mad. Now, the project has helped me how to respond to people.”

Tong Van Hoan

According to Hoan, participating in activities such as Village Savings and Loan Association meetings or learning household financial management skills has made the women more confident and to better manage their family’s expenditures. For the men who have taken part in gender equality training, he observed that they started to understand their own responsibility in doing housework such as cooking and washing.

Hope for a better life

He still has concerns. Despite coffee being the key soure of income in the area, all the farming work depends a lot on weather conditions. Moreover, he believes farmers are in a passive position as they are used to depending wholy on wholesale companies and are unaware of market prices. Meanwhile, in animal husbandry, an area where he also provides advice to farmers outside the TEAL project’s scope, disease control has not been effective.

Looking forward, Hoan would like the TEAL project to support coffee farmers particularly in selling their products because he believes it is crucial to sustain the income so as to ensure re-investment in production. He also hopes that the life of his own family and others will continue to become better.

CARE implements the Australian-funded project, Technologically Enhanced Agricultural Livelihoods (TEAL) in the two provinces, Dien Bien and Son La. In Dien Bien, our co-implementing partner is the Center for Community Development. In Son La, we work with the provincial Department for Agriculture and Rural Development. In addition, CARE works with the Dak Lak-based Community Development Center, Vietnamese leading coffee experts, and a series of private companies to help Arabica coffee farmers enter more demanding markets.