How working differently improves the lives of ethnic minority men and women in Kon Tum.
On the mountainsides surrounding Dak Vien village, the ginseng gardens of Y Hien, Y Sinh, Y Biu and Y Ty are growing well. The women expect to harvest the first batch of ginseng by the end of 2019, adding a new source of income for their family.
Dak Vien lies in the mountainous Te Xang commune in Tu Mo Rong district of Kon Tum province. Located in the middle of vast mountains and forests, Tu Mo Rong, home to many Sedang ethnic people, remains one of the poorest districts in the country.
With the support from CARE and the Kon Tum provincial Women’s Union, 21 women in Dak Vien village formed the first ginseng group in March 2019. In the first year, the first 10 members received 5 million VND to invest in the ginseng. In the next year, another 10 members will receive support in the form of ginseng seedlings. Such a grant means a lot where each person earns roughly 10 million VND a year and more than a dozen of the 92 households in the village still do not have a television.
Kon Tum is well known for its Ngoc Linh ginseng, which is harder to grow and requires bigger investment. Codonopsis pilosula, or Dang Shen ginseng, is the choice for the group: it’s easier to plant, suitable to Kon Tum climate conditions, faster to harvest, and easier to sell. On the down side, the price fluctuates greatly.
On a board hung at the communal house, the women wrote down periods of weeding, planting, and harvesting. It also shows when the next member should prepare the soil and take the seeds. They meet regularly to learn how to take care of ginseng, find new markets, and keep account of revenues and expenditures.
“We agree that the seedlings must be local. If they are from somewhere else, the quality may not be good enough.”Ms. Y Pot, head of the Dak Vien ginseng group and women’s union
The good news came a few months later, when some members started to sell ginseng leaves to restaurants at 50,000 VDN per kilogram. For the roots, they expect to sell at 150,000- 200,000 VND per kilogram.
The group members are now committed to one goal: by 2022, every one has about 2,000 square meters of ginseng garden and earns about 50 million VND per year. They want to reach that level before sharing experiences with other villages. In the mean time, they also aim to process fresh ginseng into different products and ensure stable buyers.
Management skill as key to sustainable group development
Together with planting ginseng, the group has maintained self-managed savings. Group members can borrow from this pooled fund with the approval of every other member. Since March, the group has saved 18 million VND (about 800 USD). Three members have borrowed to buy ginseng seedlings or repair the house. In particular, thanks to the loan, Ms. Y Thao managed to pay for a pre-school teacher training course.
According to Ms. Tran Thi Phong Lan, Vice Chairwoman of Kon Tum Women’s Union, given that the province was planned to be a medicinal plant area, the Union since 2013 has encouraged its members to plant the ginseng. Yet, the plan has faced difficulties due to the lack of investment and suitable methods. She also added that integrating gender equality and response to climate change to income generation as in the P4EM project also fits the Union’s activities.
CARE International in Vietnam implements the Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development (P4EM) project from 2017 to 2021 in collaboration with Vietnam’s Committe for Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA) and provincial Departments for Ethnic Minority Affairs of Hà Giang, Hòa Bình, Quảng Trị, Trà Vinh and Kon Tum. The P4EM project receives financial support from the Irish Aid. More about the Project at: https://tinyurl.com/CARE-P4EM