“My husband and I used to work as hodmen in the city. Now we have a cow, a vegetable garden, and chickens, so every month now I’m not going anywhere and earn less than before, but I feel glad and happy.”

Ms. Trach Thi Thanh Nga, a stay-at-home mom, Tra Vinh province.

Ms. Thanh Thi Thanh Nga is married with two children aged 9 and 7. The family is living in hamlet Soc Tro Giua in An Quang Huu commune, Tra Cu district, Tra Vinh province. They are among the poorest in the hamlet. Without much arable land, their source of income is limited. They had to send their kids to the grandparents before doing all kinds of jobs in the city for a living, from being hodmen to house servants. After years of hard work, the couple still lives in poverty.

Now that the children are a bit older, they need adults to take more care and support with their school. Nga and her husband agreed that he would work outside the village while she stays at home taking care of the family. Since then, the small house where they live has become cozier with the children’s laughters. It has also more tidy and cleaner. They managed to get connected to the public electricity gridline for the children to do their homework in the evening. However, they earn less than before because Nga no longer works in the city with her husband. She now works for anyone around the neighborhood when possible, but the earning is modest.

Ms. Nga (right) and a CARE staff (left) with the cow her family bought, using partly her family savings and partly a loan from the Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development (P4EM) project. Photo: @2019 CARE

In early 2019, the couple joined her hamlet’s livelihood solidarity group which is supported by the Irish Aid-funded Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development project. The group agreed on operation regulations, such as voluntary participation, mutual respect, and experience sharing in household income activities. Since establishment, the group members have increased understanding about taking care of cows, earthworms (perionyx excavatus), and chickens, or about grass planting. With CARE and local authorities’ support, the members have learnt how to do this in a way that better controls diseases and adapts better with the changing weather and climate conditions. Couples participating in the group also agree with each other on how they make decisions as a family to raise income and divide labour between them in a more suitable and effective way. They also discuss matters such as child rearing.

As for Nga’s family, the project lent them 10 million dong, or about 430 USD. They chipped in with 8 million dong, or 343 USD, from their savings to buy a cow. Cow dung is used as feed for earthworms, and earthworms as feed for chickens. Such a close circle helps her save money on animal feed. More broadly, it is easy to handle for the elderly and women who have to take care of other housework at the same time. In addition, Nga rents a plot of land to grow vegetables. When we visited her mid-July, she was expecting the first harvest in a month.

Life has not been easy for Nga and her husband. But now they are hopeful for their future where the whole family will have a better life.