Aus4EqualityGREAT storiesMaking a speciality of bamboo shoots in Son La

Making a speciality of bamboo shoots in Son La

The Center for Rural Economy Development (CRED), with support from the Australian Government-funded Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Programme, implemented a clean bamboo shoot production model in three communes in Van Ho District, Son La Province in April 2019.

Farmers in Xuan Nha, Tan Xuan and Chieng Xuan communes were trained to establish cooperative groups and sustainably collect and process bamboo shoots to organic standards. GREAT also supported the farmers with processing equipment, workshops, solar-drying houses, buyer connections, product branding and using e-commerce trading platforms.

Lo Thi Nguyen, Director of the Xuan Nha Clean Bamboo Shoot Cooperative, spoke to us from outside a recently constructed processing factory in Tun Village, Xuan Nha Commune. The 400m2 modern facility is equipped to process bamboo shoots for export to Taiwan.

Ms Lo Thi Nguyen (left) – Director of Xuan Nha Clean Bamboo Shoot Cooperative

“When CRED introduced the bamboo shoot project in 2019, we were very excited. We subsequently had the chance to meet with the Yen Thanh Company and visit their bamboo shoot supply chain in Yen Bai to discuss the replication of the model in our communes,” said Nguyen.

Bamboo shoots used to be sold locally as raw material, but the price and value were low and unstable. For example, Nguyen’s cooperative members sold bamboo shoots at VND4,000 per kg. Yen Thanh Company committed to pay members VND 5,000 to 5,500 per kg, depending on quality. This is around 20% more than the market value.

The Xuan Nha Cooperative processing facility has the capacity to meet the supply from a planned 1,000 ha bamboo plantation. Yen Thanh Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cooperative to purchase all the processed bamboo over the next 20 years. This purchasing agreement offers the young Cooperative much-needed confidence to develop the business. As part of this agreement, Yen Thanh Company also committed to providing 70% of the seed money needed to purchase raw materials and transfer the processing technology to the Cooperative.

Women members of Xuan Nha Clean Bamboo Shoot Cooperative are pre-processing bamboo shoots in the solar drying house

For the 2020 crop, Yen Thanh purchased 30 tonnes of processed bamboo shoots to be exported to Taiwan with a value of up to VND 780 million. With an initial 13 household members, the Cooperative expects to expand to more households in the coming years in order to meet the Yen Thanh Company’s demand for up to 20,000 tonnes of bamboo per year.

Lo Thi Nguyen is one of 615 women in the three communes participating in the project.

When she started the Cooperative, Nguyen needed to attend many training classes. Her husband did not support her taking on the role as she often worked from dawn to dusk, with little time to take care of their family. However, thanks to the encouragement of the Cooperative members and the project staff, she was not discouraged. Nguyen invited her husband to participate in gender equality events supported by the project. The result was positive. When Nguyen’s husband had a better understanding of her work, he also actively shared the housework so that she had time to run the Cooperative. He even participates in the Cooperative work with her.

With the companionship and understanding of her husband, Nguyen became more and more confident to realise her dream.

Cao Thi Tam, Director of the 269 Tan Xuan Bamboo Shoot Cooperative in Tan Xuan Commune, shared a similar story. She’s not only successful in creating jobs for the local community and helping them earn more money, her life also changed thanks to the support of the GREAT Programme.

Ms Cao Thi Tam – Director of 269 Tan Xuan Bamboo Shoot Cooperative

Tam moved to the commune in 2012 and opened a small grocery store. Witnessing people painstakingly collecting bamboo shoots in the forests and selling them at low prices, she began thinking of how to help them.

“At that time, each family’s monthly income was about VND 3 million but they worked so hard. Life was difficult. Children didn’t have warm clothes in winter. Although I didn’t earn much from the grocery store, I tried to share rice and food with them,” she said.

Tam intends to open a business to buy and distribute bamboo shoots to the people.

In 2019, she founded 269 Tan Xuan Bamboo Shoot Cooperative with the encouragement of the local government as they saw the value in having a Cooperative in the region through which businesses could buy agricultural products.

Tam found the early days of being involved in bamboo shoots difficult. Having never processed bamboo shoots. she did not understand the processing techniques. She also didn’t have a buyer. Fortunately, she was lucky to find a friend who specialised in selling bamboo shoots and things began to go more smoothly.

Tam’s Cooperative became involved with the GREAT Programme in 2020. The Cooperative was supported with modern processing equipment and machinery, such as a drying oven, a large-sized bamboo boiler, a centrifugal extractor, a bamboo storage tank and a stainless-steel packing table for finished products.

At the same time, the Cooperative members were trained in preliminary processing techniques, food hygiene and safety standards, production planning, marketing and online sales. They learned about digital platforms such as Shopee and Voso and tried to advertise products on social media such as Zalo and Facebook. GREAT also helped local women to be more confident and have a greater voice in the family and community.

Thanks to the support of the GREAT Program, the products of 269 Tan Xuan Bamboo Shoot Cooperative have been promoted on e-commerce platforms.

With GREAT’s support, the Cooperative’s sales have increased, as have the incomes of  members. In the first year of operations, the Cooperative’s revenue was around VND 900 million per year. In 2021, this figure was VND 3 billion, of which 30% – 35% was recorded as profit.

“The Cooperative was established with 12 members, now it has more than 70 members, of which more than 40 are women, mainly from the Thai, Mong, and Muong ethnic groups.”

Vi Van Gioi, Vice-Chairman of the Xuan Nha Commune’s People’s Committee, appreciated the GREAT Programme’s support and the direction of the Provincial Government in helping people produce bamboo shoots.

“Provided with tools and knowledge, people, especially women, are more confident in operating the Cooperative. Xuan Nha Commune is now an example of a rapidly developing economy and increased gender equality,” Mr Gioi said.