Leave hesitation and worry behind
Posted on 20/11/2018
September marks the harvesting of the cinnamon crop in Lao Cai province. Once the month is over, cinnamon farmers have already received the pay-off of their hard works throughout a long year. Like other farmers in Nam Det commune, Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province, Ms. Man, a local ethnic Dao, has just finished her cinnamon trade this year. Some years ago, after every successful crop, she still felt worried about the market price that would be unpredictably fluctuating.
But things have changed…
This time, Ms. Man could share that burden with other members in her group of local cinnamon farmers. The group was established with the support of Women’ Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE). The project aims to promote a gender transformation in the cinnamon value chain and to improve the livelihoods of local people with the cinnamon production.
In their gatherings, Ms. Man and other local farmers discussed their issues of their cinnamon crops, updated others of market information, exchanged ideas and finding more ways to increase empowerment for ethnic minority women. Ms. Man talked about her worry of market price instability. The silence dawned upon the circle of these people. All cinnamon farmers sitting in the room had witnessed the ups and downs of the cinnamon over the past 40 years and the fear of instability had always been nagging in their minds. After a while, Mr. Vay, a member in the group, said: “Should we try initial processing for cinnamon? We all have been taught about the know-how while the price of processed cinnamon is much more stable than fresh cinnamon. We can always learn more if anything crops up”. The brilliant initiative immediately received everyone’s approval and the share of work was quickly divided among members. The processed cinnamon, quills shape for example, will add up the revenue at least 30 – 50%. Ms. Man voluntarily received the task of connecting with traders and manufacturers to ensure the offtake as she possessed a wide network. Mr. Vay took up the work of a technical ‘expert’ whereas another member contributed a part of his land for the factory. That was how Nam Det group of cinnamon processers was given birth to.
The first steps were not smooth for the group because of a myriad of obstacles such as requesting loans from the district’s agriculture bank, constructing the factory and preparing the facilities. Gradually, with the dedication of all members in the group, the very first order of high-quality processed cinnamon was sold with a reasonable price and a promise of trader to re-purchase. And the hard work paid off when their business initiative, which seemed too ambitious at first, turned into a brilliant reality.
After a while, the urge for business expansion emerged. They wanted more than the seven farming households who pooled the money in the beginning. However, legality issues made it difficult for other members to join the capital. Thanks to the WEAVE project’s support, the group members successfully established Nam Det Organic Cinnamon Cooperative to take advantage of the project’s further support in issuing organic cinnamon certification.
Another challenge popped up: The collectors required proper storage techniques to ensure processed cinnamon are not be placed underground mixing with other crops. Mr. Vay had to spend a great deal of efforts to convince the members to strictly follow the procedure.
The birth of the cooperative had been greatly cheered by ‘founding’ members, “We would certainly have to learn more about business administration techniques like accounting. The project even gives us the golden opportunity to learn about experience of cooperative administration in Quang Binh so that our business can run more smoothly”, said Ms. Man, Mr. Vay and Ms. Khe excitedly.
Business opportunities came to the newly-established cooperative with an increased number of orders and help the cooperative to operate all year round, creating more jobs for local workers. The hopes brought by the cinnamon and WEAVE have touched Nam Det village and settled in the hearts of local people once again. But Ms. Man, Ms. Khe and Mr. Vay don’t want to stop there. They expect to expand the cooperative and make new products. “I think entrepreneurship spirit is very important. Once you are bold enough to start up a business, it means you leave all your hesitation and worry behind. My friends in the cinnamon business network have encouraged me a lot”, said Ms. Man.
We are proud of Ms. Man and many other inspiring women like her, who showed their leadership for positive changes in their lives and the community. The core value of WEAVE project was echoed in the mark of appreciation from Mr. Nguyen Huu The, Vice Chairman of Lao Cai province, “Lao Cai appreciates the support from the Australian Government and international organizations. Especially, WEAVE project has helped initiate ideas, new ways of working for locals so that they can pull themselves out of poverty and step by step increase their income legally”.
The Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) project is funded by the Australian Government and implemented by a partnership of three international non-governmental organisations – CARE International in Vietnam, Oxfam in Vietnam and SNV in Vietnam. WEAVE supports ethnic minority women’s economic empowerment in pork, cinnamon value chains in Lao Cai province and banana value chain in Bac Kan province. This will be achieved by promoting equality between women and men within households and producer groups, strengthening women and men producers’ skills and bargaining power, and working with business and government decision-makers to improve the policy environment to support producers.