65 Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLAs) with about 1,300 members have been established in the past two years. Via regular meetings, members have gradually gained knowledge to tackle gender norms that are creating barriers for women and to improve their Arabica coffee cultivation techniques.
These are some preliminary results shared at the annual review and planning workshop on 18 and 19 July 2019 in Hanoi of the Australia-funded Technologically Enhanced Agricultural Livelihood (TEAL) for ethnic minority women project.
Achievements and challenges
The Northwest region, mainly Dien Bien and Son La, is the largest center of Arabica coffee plantation in Vietnam. Arabica coffee is the main source of income for many ethnic minority people. After years of cultivation, however, farmers here still limit their work to planting and selling fresh fruits. This is why, to increase income from coffee, they need support to engage more deeply in Arabica coffee chain by improving the cultivation quality, applying post-harvest technology to produce high-quality coffee products using both natural and honey/semi-washed processing methods, and minimizing environmental harm. When participating in the TEAL project, local people and local authorities have also improved gender awareness, thus changing their views of roles and contributions of women, the main workforce in the process of planting and harvesting Arabica coffee in the Northwest.
In addition to taking stock, the workshop participants also raised many challenges and provided suggestions for the coming period. For example: how to promote the role of Northwest coffee to the public, especially to potential domestic customers? How to help female farmer groups approach coffee manufacturers? Similarly, the project team also raised concerns about how to simplify the monitoring and evaluation process, how to maintain and spread positive changes in gender equality from the project to the wider community, how to mobilize more male participants, or how people with disabilities can participate and benefit from the project.
In the months to come, the project is expected to focus its support for 3 producer groups in Son La and one in Dien Bien. Such support will concentrate on improving quality in all stages, from production, preliminary processing, market access, to piloting of roasting.
More about the workshop
Nearly 40 members attended the workshop. They included villagers from Muong Ang district (Dien Bien) and Mai Son district (Son La), and project implementing parties including CARE, the Center for Community Development Dien Bien (CCD), Dak Lak Community Development Center (CDC), the Agricultural Extension Center (Sơn La Department of Agriculture and Rural Development), the Inclusive Development Action Center (IDEA), a Hanoi-based organisation supporting people with disabilities.
Representatives of two private companies also attend the workshop. Son La-based Phuc Sinh Coffee Joint Stock Company and Dien Bien-based Manh Hung Coffee Processing Enterprise play the role of transferring cultivation and processing techniques as well as linking markets to the producing groups established in the project.