Difficulties and efforts of the InfoAct project when developing and delivering weather news to the people in Lai Chau and Dien Bien provinces. 

Tran Thi Thanh Xuan, an officer of the Agricultural Service Center of Dien Bien district, has been a member of the task force in Dien Bien province for nearly 2 years. Every Monday afternoon, Xuan and other members inthe task force temporarily put aside their busy work to sit together and develop a newsletter to provide farming recommendations based on the weather and agro-meteorological forecasts. Like many other colleagues, she is working hard to bring the most accurate, timely and down-scaled news to the local farmers.

With funding from the German Federal Government, the Information for Adaptation in Vietnam project (InfoAct) has been implemented by CARE International Vietnam in Dien Bien and Lai Chau province since 2018. In each province, the project establishes a task force consisting of the Agricultural Service Center, the Agriculture Division, the Hydro-meteorology Station and the Plant Protection Station. This task force plays a key role in  coordinating and analysing data from the hydro-meteorological station and forsee different scenarios on temperature, weather, and rainfall, thereby making recommendations about plants and animals.

“Before, there were recommendations for farmers, but it was quite fragmented, for example, separated recommendations on pests and diseases, and other recommendations on seasonal schedules. What the InfoAct project aims to do and has succeeded is to coordinate different agencies to work together and make a consolidated recommendation. Especially, this recommendation has to correspond with the weather information, and deliver to the people in the most timely and easy-to-understand manner,” shared by Tran Manh Hung, the InfoAct’s Project manager.

Efforts to produce weather forecasts

Mobilizing the participation and maintaining effective work of the task force face significant challenges. Tong Thi Huong – Deputy Director of Dien Bien Center for Community Development (CCD) – a project implementing partner – shared: “The first phase of the project was challenging because each member was busy with their own professional work. The task force had to proactively arrange and keep connections via Zalo, Facebook for timely communication. Besides, the production of newsletters at regular frequency in a short time made the work of the task force busier and more pressured.”

Efforts to deliver information to the local people

Tong Van Phong – an agricultural officer in Trung Dong commune (Tan Uyen district, Lai Chau province) – said that language is an obstacle: the majority of local people are ethnic minorities and not everyone can read and speak Kinh language fluently. When coming to Thai ethnic’s villages, Mr. Phong actively communicates in Thais language, so it is easier for  local people to understand and engage in the discussion. In addition to face-to-face meetings, the project also communicates via other channels such as Zalo, text messages, villages’ public speakers in order to deliver information to the farmers in the most convenient way for them.

Efforts to motivate local people to change

Motivating people to follow recommendations and change their farming habits is also a big challenge. People are used to following their experiences from many generations while the project has only been implemented for almost 2 years. However, it has been recorded that: when a household in the commune successfully applies a new approach and witnesses  positive impacts, others will quickly learn and follow.

Giang Thi Mang – President of the Women’s Union of Ho Mit commune, Tan Uyen district, Lai Chau province,shared: “In 2019, the household of Giang A Tinh bought pesticides to spray on rice plants to treat yellow leaves, following the project recommendations. When Tinh’s rice plants got over the diseases, other people knew and also followed. Now, many people in the commune have followed the recommendations on pesticides for plant diseases in the newsletters.”

Initial results

Halfway through  the project, despite many challenges, the efforts of all stakeholders have paid off with very positive initial results: for every 10 people having access to the project’s newsletter, 9 of them has used the information to plan their farming. Nearly 33% of surveyed rice growers  in Dien Bien and Lai Chau said it helps reduce the damage caused by natural disasters. This figure applies for40% of coffee growers in Dien Bien and 27% for tea growers in Lai Chau.

The above results have motivated all stakeholders in the project, help them forget the short-term difficulties and increase their efforts on the mission to bring agro-meteorological information to the people of ethnic minorities in mountainous areas, building their resilience in response to the impacts of climate change.

The InfoAct project, or Information for adaptation in Vietnam, receives funding from the German Government. CARE implements it in Dien Bien with the Center for Community Development (CCD), and in Lai Chau with the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The project aims at strengthening the livelihood and resilience of poor ethnic minority women and men in rural areas to climate change and climate shocks.