Bringing cultures together on the farms and mountains of Viet Nam

By coming together and forming cooperatives, smallholder farmers have found it easier to earn organic certifications, invest in new production techniques and sign contracts with companies and traders.

Ninh (right) is bringing cultures together through her local farming cooperative in Viet Nam. ©FAO/ThangPham

Ma Thi Ninh thought farming would be relatively easy. The Yen Duong area of Viet Nam where she lives has excellent, arable land and offers many sought-after products, including organic sticky rice, seasonal vegetables and bamboo used for traditional handicraft products. But once she started to farm and trade in local products herself, she realised that whilst harvests were generally fruitful, the earnings were few and she, and many farmers like her, remained stuck in poverty.

It was only after several years that Ninh fully understood why. Local farmers were only able to sell to intermediaries and small-scale traders who offered low prices. The poor road and transport infrastructure in this mountainous, rural area also made it difficult to sell further afield or in other markets, where prices might be higher.

These situations breed a cycle of low earnings that leaves farmers unable to invest in technology and innovation. It is even harder for local women to break this cycle, as they often lack opportunities to study or access the capital needed to afford technology.

Cultural values

The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), hosted by FAO, and the Viet Nam National Farmers’ Union (VNFU) supported groups of farmers in forming cooperatives in the Yen Duong area. By getting organised into cooperatives, farmers can sell their products more effectively, have a joint voice to influence policy and help their members get access to basic services. The FFF seeks to strengthen these groups as primary agents of change in communities.

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