Autumn is the best season for ginseng plants in the mountains of Tu Mo Rong. Members of the Ginseng Cooperative Group of Dak Vien village, Te Xang commune, Tu Mo Rong district (Kon Tum province) now spend more time together to care for the precious medicinal herb.

Members of the Ginseng Cooperative Group. Photo: Y Pot/CARE

In one of the recent meetings of the self-managed savings and loan group, some members mentioned that it was quite boring for them to walk all the way alone from home to the ginseng garden. Each walk may take from 30 to 60 minutes.

“It feels like it takes forever [when you work alone], I also don’t know if my garden is fine, and how to learn from others to grow it better.”

Members of the Cooperative Group

The group then agreed to exchange labour. In doing so, they can work together more often and visit others’ garden to learn from each other. They also decided on a schedule that maximizes the use of their time.

When walking together, they do not mind anymore the long and steep road. Photo: Y Pót/CARE

They would start such a day very early by preparing tools and walking together to the gardens. Everyone feels energized and the group is full of laughter. Their backpacks are originally jute sacks, in which they put vegetables they collect during the walks in the forest. They feel much less weary now, when the path to the gardens seems flatter, less steep and shorter thanks to the jokes and laughter.

During this season, the most important task is to remove grass from the ginseng gardens and monitor pests. The women bend their back while working, but do not forget to chat with each other, creating a cheerful atmosphere. While working side by side, they talk about their experience in caring for the ginseng, such as pest control and prevention, or how to keep buffaloes, cows, and rats away from the gardens. During the break, they would eat forest fruits. Simple and happy, that’s how a day has passed.

The women turned jute sacks into backpacks. Photo: Y Pot/CARE

Dac Vien village’s Ginseng Cooperative Group is one of many community initiatives that have received support from the Irish Aid-funded project Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development (P4EM). In addition to Kon Tum, the P4EM project is active in Ha Giang, Hoa Binh, Quang Tri, and Tra Vinh. Implemented by CARE and partners, the P4EM project runs from 2017 to 2021

First, community members decide among themselves on the matter they want to work on, being it growing ginseng, raising cows, or fixing the village road. After that, relevant stakeholders in the project help the groups with planning, progress monitoring, financial reporting, etc.

Via these initiatives, the P4EM project expects to enhance the capacity of provincial Department of Ethnic Minority Affairs and Poverty Reduction Committees to improve the efficacy of the implementation of the National Targeted Programme on Sustainable Poverty Reduction and Programme 135.