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Government seeks to stop ethnic nomads

Update: December, 14/2013 - 09:13
A resettlement area for people living near Ban Chat Hydro-Power Plant in northern mountainous Lai Chau Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha

HA NOI (VNS)— The Government's policy to support sedentary farming has been mostly successful, but thousands of people from several ethnic minority communities continue to lead a nomadic lifestyle, officials said at an online conference this week.

Tang Minh Loc, director general of Economic Co-operation and Agriculture Development Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the "uncontrolled migrants" remained a headache for authorities at various levels.

They persist with their nomadic life despite the Government issuing special policies to support sedentary farming, according to the official.

He said that between 2005 and 2012, some 277,000 people were recorded as practising a nomadic life, just half the number in 1991-1995. In recent years, the number has dropped to 8,000 a year.

Loc said most of the "uncontrolled migrants" were from the Central Highlands and Dong Nam Bo (Eastern Nam Bo provinces).

In the past, they migrated in large groups, but this has dwindled to small ones now.

"Since 2006, the Government has allocated VND 6 trillion ($282 million) to help these people settle down. During the same period, local governments have also set aside VND2 trillion ($94 million) to support the new settlers," Loc said.

In addition, the Ministry of Defence has set up 23 national defence and economic zones, and has welcomed more than 85,000 civilian households to live there.

A report prepared by the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs identifies poor environmental conditions, religious customs and traditions and economic hardships as main reasons for people persisting with the nomadic lifestyle.

"Up to 85 per cent of these migrating households belong to ethnic minorities, and 97.8 per cent of them are H'mong people," the report says.

It says that because they lack production capital, these ethnic minority households practise subsistence farming.

More than 45 per cent of them live in temporary shelters, 70 per cent of the households don't have access to clean water and 84 per cent live without electricity.

Their nomadic life has forced these households to live in small clusters inside the forest and practise slash and burn farming to grow short-lived crops.

As a result, they remain impoverished. Up to 70 per cent of their children are not able to get a proper education.

Nguyen Minh Tien, deputy chairman of the Ha Giang People's Committee, said that from 1998 to 2013, some 7,000 people migrated from his province but only 204 people from other provinces had settled down in Ha Giang, he said.

"For more than ten years, we have made big efforts to help people stabilise their lives. But sometimes we feel it is beyond our capacity as the number of households classified as beneficiary households are so many, and we don't have sufficient resources. The support we get from the central government is too little," Tien said.

Bun Tho Lao, Vice Chairman of the People's Committee in EA Sup District, Dak Lak Province, said that from1995 to 2013, his district saw 14,134 migrants settling there, more than 80 per cent of whom were very poor.

"The great number of uncontrolled migrants coming to our district has caused a big problem for us in household registration as well as forest protection. That's not all, they have derailed our district's annual socio-economic development plan," Lao said.

Nguyen Huu Huan, Vice Chairman of the People's Committee of Tuy Duc District, Dak Lak Province said that to solve the problem of uncontrolled migration, it is important to forge close co-ordination between provinces from where the people depart and those that they go to.

"Good co-ordination will ease the life of migrants and help them settle down quickly," Huan said.

According to Loc, northern mountainous provinces are currently executing 65 projects with funding of VND 1.5 trillion ($72.1 million) from the State budget to help the migrants settle down.

However, as of 2012, only VND 482 billion ($22.65 million) of this amount had been disbursed.

Dak Lak Province has 14 projects with total funding of VND 1.048 trillion ($492 million), but only VND 287 billion ($13.5million) has been disbursed.

Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said uncontrolled migration remained a thorny issue.

"The key reason is poverty. The migrants move from difficult areas to difficult areas. This movement has added more challenges to local authorities.

"We need to work together to come up with workable measures and harmonised policies between departure provinces and arrival provinces," Phat said.

He asked provinces that have many people migrating out to mobilise all resources available to help poor households develop production and adopt new policies to help them quickly stabilise their lives.

Provinces receiving many migrants should also extend their support and help the migrants settle down quickly, Phat said.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will do its best to ask the government to allocate more funds to help the migrants and adopt more policies to support them in stabilising their lives as quickly as possible," Phat said. — VNS


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