Read the story about a project participant through the eyes of CARE’s Monitoring and Evaluation Focal Point Bui Bich Ha.

Due to family reasons, Cam Thi Phuong was unable to complete her studies at a agroforestry university. The thirst for knowledge has never gone away in this young woman. She does not miss any learning opportunities, including participating in a CARE project, to become more confident and knowledgeable.

The 26-year-old woman now lives with her husband and daughter in Noong village, Ang Cang commune, Muong Ang district, Dien Bien province. For generations, her family has lived on cultivating rice and coffee as well as animal husbandry.

Phuong (standing, center) during a training in agro-climate information communication. Photo: Giang Vu/CARE

Growing self-confidence

Nearly two years ago, the village of Phuong was introduced to the project of Technologically Enhanced Agricultural Livelihoods(TEAL). Phuong joined the project from that very first day. Phuong became the leader of the Village Savings and Loan Association group named Roses that receives support from CARE and the Center for Community Development of Dien Bien.

Phuong takes care of housework and farm work during the day. At night, she helps others in the Roses group know more about how to manage family spending.

“I have felt more comfortable, confident and cheerful since I got involved in the operation of the CARE project.”

Cam Thi Phuong

To her, the VSLA platform has brought joy of life to the members. The people borrow money from the group to do small business or meet urgent needs such as buying food for their families or paying school fees for their kids. Meeting once a month, the women can comfortably give each other advice about life and production, which they rarely get the chance to do in their busy life.

Expecting women to have more farming machines

In the village where Phuong lives, women still have many disadvantages as they take the burden of homemaking without the power to make important decisions.

While joining the TEAL project, Phuong gradually understood that she and the surrounding women had the right to exchange with her husband in order to make a decision. She learned that decisions such as purchasing machinery for production or family planning affect both wife and husband, and therefore, they both have equal voices. Participating in the project also helped Phuong better understand the right techniques in caring and harvesting coffee.

“I take part in training, then tell the people [what I learned], so they know how to do it. People ask, I answer. Or if I feel something is wrong, I’ll tell them. At first, people did not it, but now everyone starts listen to me. ”

Cam Thi Phuong

As many other families in the commune, hers has seen better living standards after years of hard work and saving. Yet, she still thinks much about the stability of their income sources. Farming seems to just help them make ends meet while working as hired labourers also does not bring stable income.

Phuong also wondered about the fact that coffee farming has not been effective enough to ensure a sustainable source of income for villagers. The people lack basic skills in planting and producing coffee. They do not have enough money to buy fertilisers or production tools. Neither do they access good information on prices or purchasers.

Moreover, she finds that in agricultural production, there is a great demand for weather information provided in new ways such as mobile phone messages. She also thinks the content of the such information needs to be detailed and be suitable with local natural and geographic conditions.

She wishes to participate in various training activities of the project to learn more about she can earn a better living from coffee trees. She also hopes women will have access to new machinery such as lawn machines to reduce the burden of work. In that way, she believes women would have time to rest and better enjoy their life.

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.