Vi Thị Thanh (right), 41, head of Đăk R’Măng Commune’s Bình Phú Group, shows group member Lan Thị Loan how to recognise and treat a disease that affects coffee trees.e district’s farmers have created so many initiatives to help each other and to develop the district’s economy.” – VNS Photo Gia Lộc
ĐẮK NÔNG — About four years ago, Vi Thị Thanh heard about a training project designed to empower ethnic minority residents in her district, an impoverished area located in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Nông.
Thanh, 41, who is ethnic Thai, had moved to Đăk Glong District from the southeastern province of Bình Phước in 2007.
With a four-hectare farm, she began growing coffee trees in Đăk R’Măng Commune but with little experience, Thanh was able to produce only one to two tonnes of beans per hectare.
Then, in 2012, she began taking part in the Bình Phú Group, which is part of a training project in the district. She learned about coffee cultivation through field trips and training workshops.
“The trips (to see agricultural models) and workshops helped me get close to other farmers and become more confident about asking questions,” Thanh said.
The farmers learned about proper nutrition for coffee trees and how to treat diseases.
“One of the most important things I learned was how to properly use chemicals to kill insects,” she said.
To raise productivity, Thanh also changed to a new processing and harvesting method, and began to harvest ripe instead of unripe coffee fruit.
Productivity on Thanh’s farm has doubled since 2013.
The members of her Bình Phú Group are now setting their sights on a 4C certificate, which is awarded to coffee growers who meet baseline criteria for sustainable production, processing and trading of green coffee, and who eliminate unacceptable practices.
Thanh said she was also successful in persuading members of another agricultural project, called 3EM, to provide her group with five coffee processing machines, free of charge.
“I am now more knowledgeable, and I’m proud that I have the confidence to do what I want,” Thanh said.
Besides cultivating coffee, Thanh also began raising 300 chickens after learning how to protect them from disease by consulting other farmers.
She sells the chickens to a company in District 12.
All the chickens have been vaccinated, and their coop is cleaned frequently.
“My chickens are not injected with any medicine, and they’ve grown quickly and gained weight. The injections could affect consumers’ health,” Thanh said.
In November last year, she made a profit of VNĐ10 million (US$448) selling the chickens, and she is now raising 500 chickens.
Seven households in and outsite her farmers’ group have followed her lead and are now raising a total of 1,800 chickens.
Mai Văn Tùng, deputy head of the district’s Agricultural and Rural Development Division, said that the farmers’ groups were different from other projects as the members had voluntarily set up their groups with the same interests.
The farmers share expertise and also decide when they need to seek outside help, while at the same time, check market prices on the internet and travel to other provinces to buy seedlings.
“We have seen their income increase three or four times,” Tùng said.
The project, which includes 13 groups of farmers, is co-ordinated by the Đắk Glong District’s Agricultural and Rural Development Division, Farmers Union and the Centre for Community Empowerment (CECEM), a capacity-building organisation based in Hà Nội.
Covering 145,000 hectares, the district, whose residents are mostly ethnic minorities, remains underdeveloped even though it has favourable weather and abundant resources.
The poverty rate is 62.65 per cent of 13,178 households, according to Lê Quang Dần, vice chairman of the district’s People’s Committee.
The farmer’s co-operative project, which began in November 2013, will end in October this year.
“I believe these farmers’ groups will continue to help develop the economy of their communes and the district,” Tùng said.
Funds for farmers
Members of the farmers’ groups in the district that are part of the project also provide low- or zero-interest loans for their disadvantaged members.
For instance, Nguyễn Trọng Thượng, head of the Tân Tiến co-operative group, said that they voluntarily donated money to farmers so they could till their fields and orchards on the mountain slopes.
The two most disadvantaged households in his group have received loans to raise goats.
The Bình Phú Group of which Thanh is the head has used its funds to provide loans to farmers who raise poultry and cultivate pepper.
Lan Thị Loan, a member of the Bình Phú Group, said that her income rose thanks to the loan worth VNĐ7.8 million ($347) to grow pepper.
Members of another group, Thành Công Group, have used their loans to buy coffee seedlings. Many members now have at least one hectare of coffee besides cassava and sorghum, which were their main plants in the past.
Dần, vice chairman of the district People’s Committee, said: “I’m very pleased that the district’s farmers have created so many initiatives to help each other and to develop the district’s economy.” – VNS