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The Dien Bien and Son La provinces in the far north-west of Vietnam are home to isolated and marginalised ethnic groups who face limited access to education and basic farming tools. These are some of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, with women often suffering from unequal rights and limited opportunities. The TEAL (The Techniques to Enhance Agricultural Livelihoods) coffee project, implemented by CARE from 2017 to 2022, aimed to empower these women by providing them with new skills and techniques to improve their farming practices and their livelihoods
Project activities included:
The project has had a significant social impact by empowering women from ethnic minority groups through improved farming practices and increased market access. This has helped to build sustainable, resilient and profitable livelihoods that benefit the whole community.
Through the project, ethnic minority women have gained technical skills in coffee production and have developed market linkages, leading to increased income and recognition as leading coffee producers in the community. The project has also worked to engage men and women in gender dialogues to explore and address issues related to labour division, decision making and barriers to women's economic participation. Overall, the project has had a significant social impact by empowering marginalised women, promoting gender equality, improving sustainable farming practices, and enhancing the economic wellbeing of the community as a whole.
Among ethnic Minority Women who are coffee producers, 79% were making decisions jointly with their husband in investment for production, which represents a 30% increase from the baseline.
Additionally, 152 households have verbal contracts in place to sell coffee to the cooperative/processing group, and 10 tons of high-quality coffee were produced and sold by cooperative groups. Furthermore, 217 women benefited from the community resilient fund through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), established in response to COVID-19, and Ara-Tay Coffee Cooperative received food safety and hygiene certification. 264 coffee processing members completed training to improve their coffee processing techniques and manage their plantations to produce high-quality coffee.
The project involved community members, including commune officials and coffee cooperatives, in gender dialogues, training sessions, and events to promote sustainable coffee development and empower women. The establishment of a community resilience fund through the project's Village Savings and Loans groups also ensured that participants' immediate and longer-term household and economic needs were addressed in response to the impacts of COVID-19.
The project is well known in Dien Bien and Son La Provinces as a successful model for women’s economic empowerment. Technical support was provided to Son La Province to develop a Sustainable Coffee Development Strategy, where farming, production and processing models have been included as good practice. The strategy has been approved by local government, and will promote sustainable coffee development in Son La over the next five years, and demonstrates the potential for the project's impact to extend beyond the lifespan of the project itself.
Cam Thi Mon lives in a remote region of Vietnam with her husband Bun, two sons and parents-in-law. As the director of a cooperative called Aratay, Mon and 11 other families are increasing their yields and their income.
Like many other families in Son La, Mon’s family has cultivated coffee for years and primarily sold fresh fruits to traders. Fluctuation of market price has led to unstable income. "Life at that time was arduous and deficient. I have to slave from dawn to dust, with all day working on the fields, and then coming back home to take care of my family in the evening", says Mon.
Mon joined her local Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA), acting as the group secretary. She has been trained in financial literacy and budgeting and says, “I feel extremely happy, as what I am doing is more meaningful.”
Not only does Mon participate in the coffee production process, she has broadened her social circle, and shares in the challenges that she and her peers face, In just one year, Mon and her coffee collective have connected to approximately 30 customers, and sold more than 400 kg of ground coffee to major markets such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.