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Stanford Social Innovation Review / Winter 2016 13


farmers tend to chili pepper
crops near Tam Ngan village
Profiles of innovative work in Vietnam.

Revitalizing a Village
spirit in people who have been worn down
by poverty.
By participating in the project, Jo Ngo
has learned new farming techniques and
A community in rural Vietnam has become the site of a project that
cultivated new habits of self-reliance. He has
seeks to export a successful South Korean development model. talked with a farming expert about fertilizer
By Tai-Young Kim & Yoo-Jin Lee choices, about managing water use, and about
large entities: CJ Cheil Jedang, a Korean the growth rate of different chili seed varia-
food company; the Korea I nternational tions. Through training sessions offered by
Cooperation Agency (KOICA); and the gov- project organizers, he has changed his work

oang Ha Jo Ngo, a farmer and ernment of Vietnam. The goal of the project routine and now starts each day with a morn-
a father of three, lives in Tam is to reduce extreme poverty in Tam Ngan by ing checkup of his farm. Each week, he takes
Ngan village, located in the Ninh working with farmers to establish red chili part in a village-wide discussion that covers
Thuan province of V ietnam. pepper farming. CJ Cheil Jedang provides a topics that range from farm labor coopera-
Back in early 2014, he was in a state of de- ready market for that crop, and its involve- tion to the creation of a village fund to pay
spair. His farmland was severely distressed: ment in the project reflects a commitment for local improvements.
It suffered from nutrient depletion and from to the shared value model of economic de- The Saemaul Creating Shared Value proj-
an unstable water supply that resulted from velopment. In that model, created by Michael ect in Tam Ngan is still at an early stage, but
a break in the irrigation pipeline to his farm. Porter and Mark Kramer, companies follow already it has changed villagers lives. One
I tried everything. Since I had no money, a strategy that embeds social value creation day this past May, Jo Ngo conducted his reg-
I took out loans, Jo Ngo says. He used the in their business operations. ular morning checkup. He gently examined
loan money to buy fertilizer and high-quality A crucial feature of the project is the use the red chili pepper crop that he was now
seeds. Still, he recalls, the quantity and of methods borrowed from the Saemaul growing. As he saw red juice flow from a ripe
quality of my corn did not meet the market Movement, which f lourished in South pepper, he had a clear sense that his work on
standard. All I had left was the debt, which Korea in the 1970s. The Saemaul model the crop was paying off. For the first time in
was the size of my annual income. aims to revitalize rural areas by providing his life, he says, he was glad to be a farmer.
Then, in April 2014, Jo Ngo heard that farmers not only with practical improve-
a chili pepper farming project would soon ments and technical training, but also with A SHARED SOLUTION
start in Tam Ngan. He volunteered to take motivational education and other, less Ninh Thuan province, with a per capita gross
part in a pilot phase of the project. This was tangible forms of support. The purpose domestic product of $1,038, is one of the poor-
my critical chance to break free from the old of these efforts is to est of Vietnams 63 provinces. In Tam Ngan,
pattern of taking out loans every season and awaken a produc- which is home to about 1,150 people, the level
just waiting for the crops to grow, without tive, can do of poverty is especially stark.
knowing what else to do, he says. The average
The project, called Saemaul Creating
Shared Value, is a collaborative effort by three
photograph courtesy of saemaul creating shared value
14 Stanford Social Innovation Review / Winter 2016

Tai-Young Kim is professor and vice dean at the

Sungkyunkwan University Graduate School of Business
(SKK GSB) in Seoul, South Korea.

Yoo-Jin Lee is a research assistant at SKK GSB.

annual farm income in the village is about pepper harvested in Tam Ngan. KOICA is education and group discussion to foster a
$235that is, about 64 cents per dayand deploying its expertise in project manage- we can do it outlook.
more than 46 percent of the population is ment and in the development of Saemaul- The impact of the Saemaul Movement
below the national poverty line. In Vietnam based community-building practices. The was striking. From 1970 to 1979, the average
overall, meanwhile, the percentage of people Vietnamese government provides staff sup- farm household income in South Korea rose
who live below the poverty line has fallen port and works to clear legal and bureaucratic from $825 to $4,602. Such achievements have
from about 60 percent to about 20 percent obstacles. Expenses for the project through sparked efforts to apply the Saemaul model
over the past two decades. 2017 total $1.7 million, and CJ and KOICA more broadly. In 2011, for instance, the World
The persistence of extreme poverty in each plan to contribute half of that amount. Food Programme entered into an agreement
Tam Ngan is largely attributable to its low Managing a complex project of this kind with the South Korean government to spread
agricultural productivity. Instead of using entails real challenges. Consensus is difficult the model to developing countries.
tractors, farmers rely on bovine and human in a situation involving multiple stakeholders, The move to bring Saemaul methods to
labor. Broken irrigation facilities result in all with different principles, says Ji Young Tam Ngan has been under way for about a
irregular farming, inefficient land usage, and Kim, a project manager for Saemaul Creating year. In October 2014, villagers formed a
low-quality crops. Fertilizer use is rare. As a Shared Value. Nonetheless, partners in the Saemaul Committee and named the head
result of these deficiencies, farms in Tam Ngan project are keeping their focus on the big pic- of the village as its leader. They also started
produce one ton of rice per hectare. Farms in ture. Sourcing chili pepper from Tam Ngan four community groupsone group each
South Korea, by comparison, produce six to is not CJs final goal, says Heekyung Jo Min, for farmers, wives, young people, and elderly
seven tons per hectare. In addition, the village vice president of CJ. Sustainable value is people. In the same month, Saemaul special-
has no agricultural cooperative: Farmers must possible only when the farmers have a strong ists from South Korea began holding Saemaul
market their crops on their own. desire for a better life. At CJ, we will support education sessions. In these sessions, villag-
So Tam Ngan has an acute need for as- the village beyond CJs business needs. ers learned about conducting a group discus-
sistance in developing its agricultural sector. sion, managing a cooperative unit, and other
At the same time, CJ Cheil Jedang faces an AN EDUCATION IN EMPOWERMENT topics. Saemaul education [reveals] power in
emerging crisis in its sourcing of a critical ag- Jin Cheol Jeon, senior vice president of the us that we were not aware of, says Khiet Ha
ricultural product. Chili pepper, an important CSV (Creating Shared Value) department Da Droach, a Tam Ngan villager who leads
ingredient in Korean cuisine, is CJs third- at CJ, recalls his early encounters with the the youth group. Ohoon Kwon, a Saemaul
most-purchased agricultural input. China people of Tam Ngan: At the beginning, the specialist, explains the ambitious vision that
has long been the companys main supplier of villagers did not think that they were entitled lies behind the Saemaul model: What we are
chili pepper, but in recent years increasing la- to healthy and happy lives. They just accepted hoping for is a small change that will [inspire]
bor costs have made that source more expen- the given conditions of life, without trying the rest of the village. We believe that change
sive. CJ leaders also have concerns about the to make changes. A lifetime of poverty, in in one villager at a time will build a village-
use of pesticides on Chinese farms. In looking other words, had deprived villagers of the wide transformation.
for an alternative source, they have fastened ability to develop self-reliance. Signs of that transformation are now
their attention on Vietnam. CJ and its parent Thats where the Saemaul model comes visible in Tam Ngan. In 2014, the Saemaul
company, CJ Group, already have extensive into play. The term saemaul combines Creating Shared Value project helped fund
operations in that country. In addition, the two ideas: progressive renewal (sae) and and implement renovation of a preschool
region that includes Tam Ngan village has a regional and social communities (maul). and a community center. In 2015, the village
good climate for chili pepper farming. The Saemaul Movement in South Korea in- elementary school underwent an upgrade.
By investing in Tam Ngan, CJ leaders corporated poverty eradication, rural mod- Efforts are also under way to improve irriga-
aspired to maximize both social impact ernization, and attitudinal change. As a first tion systems and to develop other aspects of photograph by mary altaffer/associated press

and business impact. But CJ did not have step, movement organizers would make no- agricultural infrastructure.
the resources on its own to develop the vil- ticeable changes in a communityroad im- Villagers like Jo Ngo present signs of
lages potential, so the company partnered provements, for examplein order to instill change as well. He now displays an optimistic,
with KOICA and with the Vietnamese gov- in residents a sense that revitalization was forward-looking attitude. I wish to pay off my
ernment. CJ is helping to build up agri- possible. Next, organizers would encourage loans, and I wish for a better life for my chil-
cultural infrastructure and to update the farmers to join commercial farming projects dren and the whole village, he says. We are
use of technology in the village. Through that would lead them to boost their produc- saving our crops to raise a village fund, help-
a contract farming arrangement, CJ also tivity. Alongside those efforts, the move- ing out on neighbors farms, and discussing
guarantees that it will purchase the chili ment puts a premium on using motivational ways to improve the future of our village. n
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