Improving Livelihoods of the Rural Poor in Vietnam
To address disproportionately high rates of poverty among ethnic minorities, the Government of Vietnam planned several national assistance projects in the poorest regions of the country. Vietnam sought a knowledge exchange to learn how similar poverty issues have been approached in Brazil and Bolivia based on these countries’ success with community-driven development and rural alliances projects.
The Government of Vietnam sought innovative ways to address the disproportionately high rates of poverty among ethnic minorities in an effort to support productive livelihoods among the rural, indigenous poor. The Government had planned national assistance programs and projects in the poorest regions of the country such as the Northern Mountains Poverty Reduction Project (NMPRP) and the Central Highlands Poverty Reduction Project (CHPRP), both supported by the World Bank and other development partners. However, policymakers lacked key knowledge and experience such as using value chain analysis, building public–private linkages, and integrating sustainable strategies within the broader territorial development planning processes of the provinces. In addition, marginalization of ethnic minorities leads to a failure to appreciate and incorporate the community’s concerns during development planning, rendering government support inefficient. The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), responsible for the implementation of these projects, was committed to addressing these challenges, in part through the knowledge exchange with Brazil and Bolivia.
The Government of Vietnam sought a knowledge exchange to learn how similar poverty issues have been approached in other countries. Brazil and Bolivia were selected as knowledge providers based on their success with community-driven development (in NE Brazil) and rural alliances projects (in Bolivia). Both Latin American countries have rural, indigenous poor working in difficult-to-reach, mountainous terrain similar to Vietnam.
Delegates from Vietnam were primarily mid-level central and provincial staff directly responsible for overseeing the implementation of NMPRP and CHPRP as well as a few policy-level staff from the central ministry. One team of 10 government representatives travelled to Bolivia (September 2012), and another team of 14 government representatives travelled to Brazil (December 2012).
The respective teams of delegates met with national (Bolivia) and state (Brazil) ministry personnel and program staff who shared program data, including strategy documents, progress reports, and informational materials, and undertook field visits to specific producer groups and partners. In Brazil, the delegation visited the Prorural Project, a sustainable development program in Pernambuco, developed to support 35,500 households through business household development, improved agricultural irrigation Infrastructure, and project management. In Bolivia, the team worked with the Ministry of Land and Rural Development’s EMPODERAR project, which promotes productive alliances between producer groups and buyers at the local level and increases access to productive assets and technology in 110 municipalities (about one-third of the rural municipalities in Bolivia).
Delegates visited sustainable development programs built around small-scale cashew nut processing, tilapia farming, onion farming, and women’s unions producing goat and cow dairy products. They engaged in discussions on ways in which provider government authorities have approached and integrated indigenous communities and their practices into the programs and how different attitudes can help or hinder these efforts.
Upon return to Vietnam, participants shared experiences and lessons learned in a 2.5-day dissemination workshop with approximately 40 Northern Mountain and Central Highlands government personnel (provincial and district).
The engagement of two different poverty projects in Vietnam helped to cement the interactions between the two project teams and improve internal communication. They agreed that it would be beneficial to increase support for capacity building of common interest groups.
- Participants gained increased understanding of the options for and appropriate approaches to supporting productive livelihoods for rural indigenous poor households and communities, and how best to integrate such approaches within the broader territorial development planning process of the provinces.
- Participants agreed that government support should be come through business channels rather than direct support to each household. All livelihoods beneficiary group savings will be formed as a fund. After project support ends, this fund will be transferred to the revolving funds
- The Central Highlands team incorporated elements of Bolivia’s rural alliance model and methods for inclusion of private sector in the preparation activities for their project. The CHPRP is putting in place an enhanced management information systems (MIS) inspired partly by Bolivia’s streamlined and web-based MIS.
- The visit raised awareness that a value chain should be created from production/processing phases to the product-selling phase. Regarding land mapping, facilitators should support the conduct of participatory rural assessments, and identify suitable crops to plant in the local area.
The dissemination workshop at the end of the grant period brought together members of the two study tours with a wider audience of project and government staff and ensured that participants were able to understand the rural alliance concept well enough to explain it.
- Make sure expectations are clear. Although it has comparable ethnic minority populations, Bolivia focuses its efforts based on a community’s productive potential and not ethnic makeup; so the primary goals of the participants were not exactly aligned.
- Smaller groups would be more manageable.
- As a general rule, allow for unscheduled time and freer socialization. It is important to have time to acclimate to altitude and time changes, time to be alone, and time to spend with other participants and host country representatives in an informal, social atmosphere.
The World Bank brokered the exchange with a grant of US$42,654.
The knowledge providers were the staff of the Ministry of Land and Rural Development and the Rural Alliances Program (PAR in Spanish) of Bolivia, and the groups of rural producers who have benefitted from the technical assistance and training of the PAR.
In Brazil, the providers were the relevant staff of the rural development program (ProRural) of Pernambuco’s Secretariat of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (SARA) and the producer groups and members of the productive alliances that have been formed under the program.
Both Bank projects, NMPRP and CHPRP, which benefited from the exchange, are currently under implementation. CHPRP planned to organize a workshop with several potential firms in the local area to introduce projects and find partnerships similar to the approach used in Bolivia.
Ms. Bui Thi Minh Thoa, Department of Local and Regional Economy, Ministry of Planning and Investment, said: “South-South exchange supported Vietnam two study-tour exchanges in two countries: Bolivia, Brazil in 2012 as well as workshops, conferences. Thanks to these informative studies, Vietnam has found answers for many issues: grassroots level (CIGs/LEGs, bookkeeping, partnerships); capacity building; and vocational training. Currently, both projects NMPRP II and Central Highlands try to adapt these findings in their organization arrangements.”
Participants from Vietnam:
- Dao Quang Thu, Project Director, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI)
- Nguyen Thi Minh Nghia, Project Deputy Director, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Vu Haong Yen, Production Partnership Officer, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Tran Thu Thuy, Chief Accountant, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Dan Van Chau, Director, NMPRP-2, Lai Chau Provincial Project Management Unit
- Bui Minh Trang, Director, NMPRP-2, Hoa Binh Provincial Project Management Unit
- Le Van Bien, Project Coordinator, NMPRP-2, Dien Bien Provincial Project Management Unit
- Han Van Tien, Procurement Officer, NMPRP-2, Yen Bai Provincial Project Management Unit
- Le Minh Phong, Director, NMPRP-2, Son La Provincial Project Management Unit
- Phan Trung Ba, Director, NMPRP-2, Lao Cai ODA Project Management Unit
- Dinh Xuan Ha, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Investment, Dak Lak Province
- Tran Xuan Hai, Director, Department of Planning and Investment, Dak Nong Province
- Tran The Vinh, Director, Department of Planning and Investment, Gia Lai Province
- Tran Van Chi, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Investment, Kon Tum Province
- Nguyen Thi Thu Lan, NRM Economist, Co-task team leader, World Bank Hanoi
- Nguyen Thi Minh Nghia, Deputy Project Director, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Voung Xuan Chinh, Commune Development Budget Advisor, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Dang Dinh Ngoc, M&E Advisor, Central Project Coordination Office, NMPRP-2, MPI
- Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh, Deputy Director, NMPRP-2, Hoa Binh Provincial Project Management Unit
- Nguyen Trung Kien, Commune Development Budget Officer, NMPRP-2, Yen Bai Provincial Project Management Unit
- Nguyen Thanh Hai, Project Coordinator, NMPRP-2, Son La Provincial Project Management Unit
- Le Hong Phong, Deputy Director, NMPRP-2, Lao Cai Provincial Project Management Unit
- Do Thanh Trung, Division Chief, Deputy Head of Project Preparation Unit, CHPR, Department of Local Economies and Territories, MPI
- Nguyen Thi Dang, Official, CHPR, Department of Local Economies and Territories, MPI
- Bui Thi Minh Thoa, Official, CHPR, Department of Local Economies and Territories, MPI