Weaving dreams with ethnic minority women
Posted on 04/07/2020
Originally from Ninh Binh, a lowland province in north Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Tram moved to Van Ban to be a teacher and now considers it her second home. Over the past two decades, she has witnessed the economic difficulty experienced by people in Van Ban and the entrenched disadvantages of ethnic minority women in particular. Tram joined the Van Ban District Women’s Union to support the economic development of the District and she is currently its Chairwoman.
Traditionally, the people of Van Ban have grown rice, maize and cassava for a living. In recent years, due to climate change, crop yields have dramatically reduced. In an attempt to find more resilient crops, Tram met with representatives of An Phuoc – a leading textile company in Vietnam, who wanted to upscale its plantation areas for a new crop, AP1 ramie (or ramie). Ramie has long been used as a textile material in Vietnam and internationally as it is one of the strongest natural fibers.
Learning that ramie is an easy-to-grow crop which requires simple tending for much higher economic returns than crops like maize and cassava, Tram was motivated to introduce this crop to local growers, most of whom are women. She has led the development of the project supported by GREAT that will expand the ramie plantation area to 350 ha. She has also been instrumental in working with District authorities and Agribank to develop a tailored loan product for ramie growers to buy quality inputs without the need for collateral and at a competitive interest rate.
Initially, there was some concern over the capacity of the District Women’s Union to implement such a large and complex project which requires coordination with different support services. However, under Tram’s leadership, the District Women’s Union has successfully facilitated a partnership between An Phuoc Company and ten newly established collective groups. She also actively uses social media to coordinate with group leaders and other stakeholders to ensure timely support for the women ramie farmers.
Through the establishment of women-led collectives, business partnerships with the private sector and technical support, the ramie project of Van Ban Women’s Union is developing a production area of 350 ha. The project aims to increase income 3-4 times for 3,550 women of Tay, Hmong and Xa Pho ethnic groups in Van Ban, Lao Cai.