Wednesday, December 7 2016

VietNamNews

Gov't must include ethnic minorities in development

Update: December, 10/2015 - 08:52
A justice department staff disseminates new regulations to ethnic and minority people in Krong Bong District, Central Highland Dak Lak Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Pham Cuong

HA NOI (VNS) — Ethnic minority development targets must be included in the 2016-2020 Socio-economic Development Plan, said participants at a forum in Ha Noi yesterday.

Localities must enhance ethnic people's job opportunities while providing public services, especially basic social services, for disadvantaged areas and ethnic minority groups, said the participants.

Speaking at the event, Son Phuoc Hoan, Deputy Minister – Deputy Head of the Government's Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, said that the Government recently issued Decision No.1557/GD-TTg on implementing ethnic minority-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in line with post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The decision aims at bettering the implementation of national programmes on supporting ethnic groups, thus contributing to fulfilling the nation's SDGs beyond 2015, implementing the Government's Resolution on sustainable poverty reduction orientation during 2012-20, and the 2011-2020 Strategy on Ethnic Affairs.

It once again shows the Government's determination to fulfilling the MDGs and ensuring no one is left behind, affirmed Hoan.

Irish Ambassador to Viet Nam Cait Moran said that Ireland's development co-operation programme with Viet Nam will focus on poverty alleviation for ethnic minorities.

The forum was jointly held by the National Assembly's Council for Ethnic Affairs, the Government's Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, the UN Office in Viet Nam and the Irish Embassy in Viet Nam.

Farming debts

A majority of the ethic minority farmers in the Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak and Lam Dong suffer from debts. Minorities make up 86 per cent of the provinces' farmers.

The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) and the Southern Centre for Agricultural Policy and Strategy (SCAPS) spoke of the serious situation after conducting the country's first research on the debt situation of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands.

Several officials and community voices spoke of their concern about the financial impacts on Viet Nam's ethnic groups who have changed their mode of livelihood.

At a workshop on the topic, held yesterday in Ha Noi, participants agreed that a diminishing area of land for ethnic minorities' farmers forced them to switch from planting rice to investing big sums of money on higher value crops like coffee and cocoa.

About 70 per cent of the loans taken out by ethnic minorities in the provinces have gone to agriculture projects.

Dr.Hong Cam, an anthropology expert and one of the researchers in the study, said that ethnic farmers in this region no longer rely on traditional means of subsistence but have shifted to commodity markets.

According to the research report, farmers borrow money from banks or individuals to invest in production in the hope of getting out of poverty by making bigger profits. High interest rates or harvest losses then force them to borrow more money to pay off debts.

Their debts pile up and farmers become trapped in a downward spiral.

The lack of money hinders farmers' application of new production technology and therefore to get ahead. Many farmers also end up working as hired labour and sell their land lots, which leads to a decrease in life quality, Cam said.

He suggested that the State, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and researchers encourage traditional means of subsistence among ethnic groups. He said they should also be encouraged to take advantage of human resources and the knowledge of locals when embarking on new projects.

The Coalition for Rights of Farmers and Effectiveness of Viet Nam's Agriculture could serve as a bridge connecting farmers and businesses that provide fertilisers and pesticides to farmers, Cam said.

iSEE Director Luong Minh Ngoc affirmed the coalition's pledge to continue programmes that develop farmers' self-confidence and voice so that they can express their opinions about their rights and needs. — VNS

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