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involved in the decision-making in all aspects of
day-to-day farming life. Further, 62–93% of women
were primarily responsible for marketing and
selling produce (depending on the commune).
The prospects of these women farmers
achieving nutritional and livelihood gains through
improved productivity and marketing are high.
Lao Cai, together with other north-west provinces,
has the potential to be a major vegetable supplier
to northern markets, mimicking Da Lat’s role in the
The north-west provinces are well endowed
with natural resources, enabling year-round
vegetable production. The ability to produce in the
off-season and a wealth of indigenous vegetable
varieties also provides a marketing edge for
smallholder producers. Further, research found that
Lao Cai vegetables are perceived by consumers
as safe and nutritious and are in strong demand,
particularly during the off-season (summer).
Despite these opportunities the region has
failed to fully exploit these advantages. Many of
the reasons cited for this relate to an inability to
effectively access lucrative market opportunities in
urban and regional centres.
In 2014, ACIAR commissioned a project
(AGB/2012/059) to improve the profitability and
sustainability of smallholder vegetable farmers in
north-west Vietnam through improving market
engagement and adopting integrated resource
and disease management practices.
Led by the University of Adelaide and the
Vietnam Women’s Union, the project is focusing
particularly on women and ethnic minorities who
are engaged in horticultural value chains in Sa Pa
and Bac Ha in Lao Cai province.
ACIAR’s engagement with Lao Cai vegetable
producers introduces a capacity to undertake
targeted market research, so that constraints
can be overcome and opportunities better
exploited. With market development an important
focus, research is helping us to understand how
smallholder farmers can effectively access local,
provincial, urban and regional markets.
The project uses a participatory approach—the
collaborative problem-solving methodology—
whereby supply chain stakeholders will determine
the interventions to be tested. To this end,
stakeholders are driving the R&D agenda.
In October 2014, two stakeholder workshops
were held in Sa Pa. The first, for government
officials at the district level, was organised to
gain an understanding of policies that affect the
vegetable sector and opportunities for the project
to support existing government priorities, such as
through the provision of technical information.
The second workshop was held with the
suppliers of vegetables from farms to markets—
including farmers, collectors, wholesalers
and retailers—to identify priorities for future
intervention, such as improvements in postharvest
management. The workshop led to the formation
of a steering committee to build linkages more
effectively with the private sector and act as a
sounding board for the project team.
The project’s next phase will focus on market
Consistently meeting retailer and wholesaler
volumes is a challenge that smallholder farmers
face. Group marketing through cooperatives
is one way to meet this demand and address
logistics constraints such as transport.
In Bac Ha, a group of 43 women farmers has
formed the Di Thang Cooperative to produce
and market their vegetables. The ACIAR project
has supported the cooperative in providing
training in vegetable production, pest and
disease management and marketing, including
participation in trade fairs, study tours and a
restaurant challenge. For example, early in 2016,
two trade fairs held in Hanoi were designed to
link farmers and cooperatives with retailers and
wholesalers in Hanoi.
The Di Thang Cooperative is also participating
in some of the ongoing research to evaluate new
crops and off-season production using low-cost
protected cropping structures. Now the project is
looking to work with other cooperatives in Bac Ha
and Sa Pa to support similar marketing initiatives.
Recently a new cooperative has formed in the Ta
Chai commune in Bac Ha.
Working with women and the Women’s Union
(a sociopolitical organisation) is central to the
success of the project. Women are the drivers of
vegetable production and marketing, as they are
involved in all aspects of the supply chain from
farm to market.
The Women’s Union draws from a membership
of 13-million-plus members spread throughout
national, provincial, district and commune levels
of society. This network enables information and
issues to be communicated in both directions. We
anticipate that this network will be critical as we
enter the scaling-out phase of the project. n
ACIAR PROJECT: AGB/2012/059 ‘Towards more
profitable and sustainable vegetable farming systems
in north-western Vietnam’
MORE INFORMATION: Dr Suzie Newman,
MEDIA LINKS: https://youtu.be/CHKtaNkheYo
Vegetable market in Sa Pa, Vietnam.
Women at a farmers’ meeting in north-western Vietnam.
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