Robyn Mudie, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, and members of the Australian Embassy's delegation paid a courtesy visit to Lao Cai province from June 5 to 6 to work with leaders and visit businesses.
Australia is supporting the province to promote socioeconomic growth projects, one of which is the Aus4equality Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) programme.
During the two-day business trip, Ambassador Mudie visited the Red Dao Community Cooperative in Ta Phin commune, Sapa, where the GREAT programme supports the cooperative to engage additional female farmers in the supply of inputs, the upgrade of processing and bathing facilities, and the promotion of new products.
GREAT provided over $75,000, with the Red Dao Community Cooperative providing a co-investment of more than $114,000, to create economic opportunities for ethnic minority women living in the mountainous northwest of the country.
Before having GREAT’s support, the cooperative lacked management and marketing capacity and its director was not confident in oral or written communication with outsiders in the Kinh language.
Thanks to GREAT’s support, the cooperative lured 229 households and expanded its marketing network to include a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, pharmaceutical companies, and a hospital.
Besides this, the cooperative increased online sales – despite a significant drop in overall revenue due to the pandemic – by developing a new product for the domestic market.
On this trip, the ambassador visited Ta Phin's community-based tourism village, where homestay services have been operating since 2003. However, they were of low quality and only attracted the international backpacker market.
GREAT provided capital to establish the community-based tourism cooperative and developed an operations manual and practical business plan. The programme also built the capacity of the cooperative management team and community-based tourism service providers by upgrading tourism facilities and providing access to loans to upgrade homestays.
To date, the cooperative has established five high-quality homestay models. A total of 83 people benefited from the project's activities, including 67 ethnic minority women.
By March, 800 domestic tourists had stayed overnight, 700 day-visitors had enjoyed lunch at the Red Dao Culture House, and 1,300 tourists had experienced herbal baths and local foods. This generated almost $20,000 in income for cooperative members.
During the visit to Lao Cai College, the ambassador listened to the report on GREAT’s achievements in improving the awareness of career paths within the tourism industry to enable ethnic minority women and their families to make informed choices.
The project was implemented by Lao Cai College, with technical support from the Chisolm Institute and funding from GREAT of $214,000. The project started in June 2019 and ended in April with many promising results.
Five Lao Cao College lecturers were qualified by the Chisolm Institute as trainers of the newly developed tourism training curriculum. A total of 383 students (314 of them are women and 251 from ethnic minority groups) accessed the training programme, surpassing the target of 203 students.
The college has also received funding from the National Vocational Training Department to send five people to the Chisholm Institute in Melbourne for six months of follow-up training.
Speaking at the meeting with the Australian Embassy's delegation, Chairman of Lao Cai People’s Committee Trinh Xuan Truong said that he was impressed with GREAT’s results in creating economic opportunities for ethnic minority people – especially women – living in the mountainous northwest of the country.
"The Australian government's assistance is an important resource for integrating the local socioeconomic development goals, including new rural construction and sustainable poverty reduction in ethnic minority and mountainous areas," Truong said.
|The chairman presented the ambassador with a certificate for her contribution to the province’s growth |
After the first phase of the project, over 9,000 women in Lao Cai have improved their incomes and skills.
Ambassador Mudie said, “In its second phase, which will last for the next five years, the GREAT project will continue to support Lao Cai to develop agriculture and tourism. Besides this, the project commits to offer long-term support to improve women’s empowerment, leading to sustainable development for the people in Lao Cai.”
GREAT is Australia’s most significant gender investment in Vietnam, totalling $24 million. The programme works with businesses, NGOs, the government, and civil society partners to build more inclusive business and market systems within the agriculture and tourism sectors in Son La and Lao Cai provinces.