Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsViet Nam: Poverty Reduction Gets a Boost in Bac Ninh
By Neil O'Sullivan
LIFTING AGRICULTURAL INCOME
This year's spring rice season hasstimulated an unusual level of interest and activity in many of thepoorest communes of Bac NinhProvince. With support from agrant financed by the JapaneseFund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR),almost five thousand farminghouseholds have embarked on acampaign to lift their agriculturalincome. These households haverecognized that their income willalways hover around the povertyline unless rice yields can be liftedsubstantially.As a first step in their campaign, the farmers decided toupgrade their agricultural knowledge and technique. Withsupport from provincial experts, the farmers beganattending training courses on each stage of rice production.Unlike the normal lecture-based approaches, this traininginvolves 29 village demonstration sites covering a total of 125 hectares.Already, in preparing nurseries for the current season, thewomen have learned to apply seed at the optimum rate,abandon their traditional use of urea in favor of organicphosphorous fertilizer. The old method of leaving their bagof seed rice in the pond has also been abandoned in favor of a simple but more scientific, leaching process and thewomen now know exactly the right growth stage at which tolift the seedlings.The improved technology will also involve upgrading thequality of seed, increasing organic fertilizer rates andintroducing integrated pest management. Through thesechanges, the farmers confidently expect to lift average cropyield by 30% (to 6.5 tonnes per hectare). To monitor theirexperiences, each of the farmers has started a logbook thatwill allow her to evaluate the costs and benefits of the newtechnology for next season.
SOLVING PROBLEMS THROUGH PARTICIPATION
But for five communes in Gia Binh,Thuan Thanh and Luong TaiDistricts, improving rice technologyis just the first step in increasingfarm incomes. Each of thesecommunes has formed a RuralDevelopment Support Committee(RDSC) to tackle more fundamentalproblems.For the RDSCs, the priority task isto overhaul the dilapidatedirrigation systems on which theyhave depended for decades. Anearly problem faced however, is the mismatch betweenfunds available and the large number of canals andinfrastructure to be renovated. To resolve this problem theRDSCs learned how to select options according to theirpoverty reduction impact. Using a simple formula, thefarmers calculate the priority for each option based on howmuch it will cost, how many poor people will benefit andhow much their incomes will increase.For some farmers, particularly those from female-headedhouseholds, the small farm holding (average size of lessthan a quarter of a hectare) will never allow escape frompoverty. For these households, the RDSC has investigated alarge number of livelihood options. Village women's groupshave finally selected sow breeding as the activity that willbest allow them to maintain their household tasks whileboosting their income. Detailed plans are now being finalizedto train several hundred women in modern sow breedingtechnology. Each of the women has been selected from thepoorest households in the 32 villages involved in the RuralDevelopment Support (RDS) program.