Two of the most significant change stories were recorded and shared by Mr. Luu Van Thanh – CARE’s programme officer of the Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development (P4EM) project during his 5-day trip to visit households participating in the economic empowerment and poverty reduction models in Ha Giang province. 

Ha Giang province in a day of July, the rain kept pouring and pouring. The tortuous, abrupt mountain slope was so slippery as if it wants to buck off anyone riding on it. Slowly following the small trails along the slope, we visited the households participating in the Revolving Cattle Fattening Initiative and the Indigenous Sow Raising Initiative to improve livelihoods in order to better adapt with climate change, supported by the Partnership for Ethnic Minorities’ Equitable and Inclusive Development (P4EM) project.

Change, accumulate and re-invest

The first household we visited was Ms. Vang Thi Mang and Mr. Lau Xin Su’s family, living at the Lau Chua Tung village, Sa Phin commune. The couple greeted us with a happy and smiley face, despite the beads of sweat stood out on their forehead and bare feet spattered with mud and grasses. They were preparing the grass and corn leaves to feed the cows. Talking with us, the couple happily shared how they had overcome poverty thanks to the Revolving Cattle Fattening Initiative.

Mrs. Mang shared that, her family used to be among the poorest in the village. The only means of subsistence depend on a few cornfields. Nevertheless, the corn she yielded was not even enough to feed her family, not to mention for storing and reserving. However, everything has changed since her family decided to participate in the Initiative at the end of 2018.

Together with six other families in the village, Mrs. Mang – Mr. Su’s household has been granted VND 18 million to buy one cattle for breeding purposes. Everyone was hoping that this change could help improve their family’s economic situation. Besides, the project also organized technical trainings for the participating members during periodic group meetings, instructing them how to effectively breed animals or how to store food for the winter. Mrs. Mang proudly shared that after joining the trainings, she felt much more confident in implementing the new technique in the breeding process. Every day, her family’s members took turns to take care of the cattle, from collecting grasses and cutting it into small pieces to feeding the cattle. Mrs. Mang was especially happy that her husband – Mr. Su has always share the work with her.

After just one year, the cow has grown up so fast. At the end of 2019, Mrs. Mang sold her cow and has revolved the money for 2 turns, each turn she earned VND 25 million profit.

Seeing the effectiveness of this model, at the beginning of 2020, Mrs. Mang discussed with her husband to invest more money to expand their breeding farm. Her family has then re-invested and bought two more cattle which worth VND 65 million. She told us that the two cows she is currently feeding are now worth VND 90-100 million. So, if she sells the cows now, she can profit up to VND 40 million , which is 1.5 times higher than her initial investment. The couple hoped that they can earn VND 100 million this year to have their house repaired to be more spacious and modern. Mrs. Mang also did not forget to tell us that not only her family but the whole seven families participating in the Initiative have gained profit from selling the cattle. Before we left, the couple showed us their cowshed. Seeing the healthy, beautiful cows, we can feel the devoted care they gave to them. Each and every cow they feed and sell lights up the hope to overcome poverty and change their living condition.

Sharing for mutual development

Continuing the trip, the whole group visited the family of Mrs. Pa Thi Nho and Mr. Dang Van Su in Thuong Son commune, Vi Xuyen district. By the time we arrived, there were only Mrs. Nho and Mr. Su at home, the two young children had gone to school.

In 2018, the family of Mrs. Nho and Mr. Su had witnessed a big change. They “started a business” with the capital of 2 sows. Like the household of Mrs. Mang – Mr. Su, this pair of pigs from Mrs. Nho’s family was supported under the Indigenous Sow Raising Initiative to improve livelihoods in order to better adapt with climate change – another model that was developed in parallel with the Revolving Cattle Fattening Initiative, within the P4EM project in Ha Giang province.

After listening to brief updates on their family life, we asked about the situation of the pair of sows. “Since we have these 2 sows, we went together to get food, cook bran to feed them, so they grew up very quickly. We are very happy about it!, “said Nho, with her sparkling eyes filled with joy. As she showed us the piggery, she said: “Up to now (July 2020), each sow has delivered 2 litters. These two sows gave birth very well, every litter they can give birth to tens piglets”. According to Nho, for the two previous litters, each one was sold at a profit of VND 15-16 million. Currently, the family is raising 32 piglets and 4 sows. In addition to the 2 sows originally supported by the project, her family has raised 2 more sows. Pointing at a herd of about 10 piglets, about 9-10 kg per each, she said, this herd can be sold for VND 18 million but she doesn’t want to sell it yet, because she wants to raise it a little more to get a higher price.

About the activities of the Initiative group, Mrs. Nho said that at first, 10 members were joining the Initiative with her family, most of them were poor households. Each member was supported with 2 breeding sows. Since joining the Initiative, members of the group, whose core members were women, have agreed to meet once every 2 months to share their experiences in breeding. In addition, the members of the group have voluntarily contributed VND 10 million as a mutual fund to support each other in their economic development.

Not only bringing high economic efficiency and helping many households escape poverty, but this pig raising model also contributes to reinforcing the solidarity of the group’s members and spread the sharing attitude in the community. The original members supported by the project admitted new members and provided pig breeds and shared their experiences with these households, which contributes significantly to the hunger eradication and poverty reduction of the commune.

The two children came home from school at the same time we said good-bye to the family. Looking at the bright smiling faces of the children, we have more faith and motivation in our work, to help more families like the one of Mrs. Nho and Mr. Su; so that in the future, more children can gradually have a better and brighter life.

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 Committee 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.