Improving Livelihoods in Cao Bang Province

A new irrigation system in Cao Bang Province, Viet Nam has transformed once dry fields into lush crops of maize and rice; a significant achievement in a place where people can go hungry for much of the year.

Without this New Zealand Aid Programme-funded irrigation system crops could not be watered during the dry season meaning only a single crop was grown annually as a result food supplies were scarce and children suffered high rates of malnutrition.

Farmers in Cao Bang would have to sell firewood or seek casual labour during the dry season to supplement their annual supply of maize and rice. Now, the completion of almost 3,500 metres of canals in the villages has allowed these farmers to grow a second crop during the dry season each year.

The New Zealand Aid Programme has contributed $1,374,782 to the three year Sustainable Development Fund grant for ChildFund New Zealand to partner with ChildFund Viet Nam and local community-based organisations in Cao Bang Province.

ChildFund Viet Nam is also collaborating with several Vietnamese research institutes, including the Maize Research Institute, the Rice Research Institution of the University of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Livestock Husbandry. In addition to the irrigation system Childfund Viet Nam is working with agriculture extension officers to teach almost 900 farmers in Cao Bang Province modern farming techniques.

In the first year of the project, trials of improved rice and maize cultivation increased yields by 40% and 50%, respectively. All households that tried the improved models for growing maize, rice and chickens decided to expand following the positive results.

Twenty-year-old Tam, one of the many young farmers who have tried new techniques on her family’s land, said: “There are six people in my family. I joined ChildFund’s agriculture training to learn new things. This year the project taught us how to grow rice. It was pretty hard for me at the beginning as I was not familiar with the techniques, and had limited knowledge. In the past, farmers like me did not know to transplant rice seedlings into rows; everyone used the local rice variety, which had low productivity. The results so far are quite positive. Although the harvest is not finished yet, I expect rice production to double. Garden chickens have helped increase my family income and our life is improving.”

In the second and third years of the  New Zealand Aid Programme funded activity, farmers will be taught improved practices for rearing pigs, and 420 young people will enter training courses following a local job market survey.

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