Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
A Place To Call Home
Postcard from Vietnam
Bac Kan is a mountainous province in Northern Vietnam. It is classified as an underdeveloped province, and among its 122 communes are 103 identified as the most difficult mountainous communes in Vietnam.
The people of Bac Kan have low incomes and mainly rely on agricultural and forestry production. The level of education remains low and untrained workers account for 90% of the labor force. The rate of malnutrition among children is as high as 37% and 50% of the women face gynecological problems.
In 1999, with support from Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, the provincial Women's Union began to develop this project, aiming to increase income and to improve living conditions for poor women by training to improve their knowledge and by providing loans. After participating in skills training as part of this project, graduates are given access to microcredit - the capital to buy the equipment they need to generate income using their new skills. The program has been very successful with participants repaying loans and seeing an increase in family income, standard of living and health indicators.
In order to monitor the effectiveness of our programs Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA contacts graduates a year or two after they complete their training to see how they are utilising their new skills. Ms Hoang Thi le hang our program coordinator in Vietnam recounts a visit to a young couple who had both graduated from the agro-forestry course:
"The narrow path leads me to a house on stilts with new bamboo rattan roof. It is in the traditional style of the Tay ethnic minority people. I am welcomed by a young man, the head of the family.
His name is Ha Huu Hoat (22 years old). This is Hoa Muc Commune, Cho Moi District, Bac Kan Province, near the northern border with China. Hoat attended a three-month agro-forestry vocational training course supported by Union Aid Abroad in October 2002. He is very happy to tell me the results of the agricultural products that he and his wife have produced since, by applying the new techniques and knowledge they learned from the training. He proudly tells me of the abundant potato harvest he produced from knowing how to store the potatoes in good condition. Moreover, he was proud to show his neighbours in the village what he had learned and share lessons and experiences with them.
During my visit his wife came back from their field with a basket of vegetables and grapefruit. She is glad to show off the fruit trees that they had just grafted. Both of them begin a verbal competition about whose trees are better.
I was surprised to hear that she had previously lived in a neighbouring commune, 16km away from here. She came to this commune to attend the agro-forestry training. That is a big deal, where poverty here means there is no spare cash for things like non-essential travel. The average income in Bac Kan province is $200 PER YEAR, a mere 10% of the national average. The couple met each other and fell in love and got married after the course.
They are a young couple with a clear plan for their life. They told me they want to focus on pig raising, fruit tree planting and potato growing. They intend to have baby after they earn a bit of money to ensure a better life for their children and themselves."
Ms Hoang Thi Le Hang is Program Coordinator,
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA, Vietnam
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