THÁI NGUYÊN — Almost 20 years ago, Vũ Trí Long, now 50 years old, was listed as a poor man in Village 5, Sông Cầu Town, Đồng Hỷ District in the northern mountainous province of Thái Nguyên.
Now, sitting in a spacious house in the middle of his tea and venison farm, he can barely hide his happiness and pride.
Long said the transformation was thanks to loans from the fund for employment of the Việt Nam Bank for Social Policies – Thái Nguyên Branch.
In 2002, when Long’s family was still very poor, he borrowed VNĐ3 million (US$130) from the bank. He used the money to purchase a couple of cows. By 2005, he had a herd of nearly 30 cows worth VNĐ400 million ($17,300).
But between 2007 and 2009, beef prices fell sharply, leaving Long’s family in a dire financial situation.
Not at all discouraged, he decided to take out another loan from the bank to start growing tea and raising deer.
After starting with three stags, now he has 26. Each year he earns about VNĐ250-300 million ($10,800-13,000) in profits.
Long is not the only one who has benefited from the bank's loans.
Vũ Thị Hạnh feeds her chickens in her farm, which she set up using loans from the Việt Nam Bank for Social Policies – Thái Nguyên Branch. — VNS Photo Thu Trang
Vũ Thị Hạnh, a 58-year-old resident of Tướng Quân Village in Hóa Thượng Commune, Đồng Hỷ District, was also able to grow a household business thanks to the loans.
Hạnh borrowed VNĐ44 million ($1,900) in 2018 to buy cages and set up a chicken farm.
Now, she raises 8,000 chickens and supplies chickens to small traders across the northern region – from Lạng Sơn, Cao Bằng, to Bắc Giang and Hà Nội, earning about VNĐ100 million ($4,300) in the past year.
Long believes that the loans from the Việt Nam Bank for Social Policies are the most effective loans for farmers.
In Sông Cầu Town, local farmers used to plant midland tea because it was all they could afford. It would sell for VNĐ70,000-80,000 ($3-3.40) per kilo.
Now, thanks to support from the bank, Long said local residents were confident enough to plant more valuable varieties and set up a watering system – a vital step in the quest to grow quality tea.
The new cross-bred tea sells for VNĐ300,000-500,000 ($13-21) per kilo.
“The loans are meaningful for us," said Long. "They offer us many advantages such as simple procedures, no mortgages, low interest rates and long borrowing terms."
Nguyễn Thị Mười, deputy director of the Đồng Hỷ District's branch of Việt Nam Bank for Social Policies, said the town now has about 400ha of tea farms. Every year, it supplies tonnes of dried tea of different kinds.
The more valuable tea trees have helped many households escape from poverty, she said.
Mười said that despite their positive impact, the loans can currently meet just 60 per cent of farmers' needs because the local budget is limited.
Mười proposed the Việt Nam Bank for Social Policies – Thái Nguyên Branch provide supplementary credit capital, especially for poor and near-poor households.
Lê Văn Hồng, deputy director of the branch, said the loan programme is important and meaningful.
It has contributed to implementing the national programme on poverty reduction and reducing the rate of unemployment, Hồng said.
Thousands of workers have benefited from the loans. In recent years, the loans have also helped revive traditional villages.
The developed farms help create jobs for rural women and people with disabilities, improving living standards in many poor areas.
“The programme’s effect was recognised by local authorities and residents, but the capital for loans is still limited so it has not satisfied all of the demand for jobs in rural areas," said Hồng.
Moving forward, the bank will co-operate with provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to supervise the use of the loans and assess the results of the programme.
The latest report by the Việt Nam Bank for Social Polices showed that at the end of May this year, the total fund for job creation jobs was VNĐ16.9 trillion ($732 million). Nearly 800,000 people have found jobs thanks to loans from the bank. — VNS