Promoting northwest economic development with Australian support

December 22, 2021 | 14:02
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A delegation from the Australian Embassy in Vietnam visited the northwest to meet with local farmers and businesses who are benefiting from Australian-funded projects to see first-hand how the projects are improving livelihoods and economic opportunities for local farmers, cooperatives, and small businesses in the region.
GREAT’s approach to women’s economic empowerment focusses on: Reach: Engaging women in all project activities and addressing barriers to participation.
GREAT’s approach to women’s economic empowerment focuses on engaging women in all project activities and addressing barriers to participation

The visit reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to economic development in the northwestern provinces as a part of its long-term partnership with Vietnam through the Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) programme, the Aus4innovation programme, and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Since 1993, ACIAR has invested around AUD$32 million ($22.8 million) through 20 international collaborative research projects in northwest Vietnam to develop sustainable farming systems on sloping lands, diversify agricultural products, protect natural resources, and improve farmers’ income. During this visit, the delegation met with farmers and local agricultural officers from Yen Bai, Son La, and Dien Bien provinces who have participated in a 10-year ACIAR project led by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) to develop market-based agroforestry systems in the region.

To date, 425 smallholder families participating in the projects have successfully applied agroforestry systems to increase income, while protecting the quality of their soil, land, and environment.

The GREAT programme is Australia’s single largest development investment in Vietnam, totalling over AUD$32 million. The programme works with business, non-governmental organisation (NGO), and government partners to build more inclusive business and market systems within the agriculture and tourism sectors in Son La and Lao Cai provinces, to ensure that local women and ethnic minorities actively participate in and benefit from related economic activities and growth.

The visit to GREAT’s partners included an inspection of Xuan Nha Clean Bamboo Shoot Cooperative in Xuan Nha commune, Van Ho district and dinner with local women homestay owners in Vat village, Moc Chau district. The delegation heard how the programme has helped local women producer and community-based tourism groups connect to high-value markets.

Promoting northwest economic development with Australian support

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the GREAT programme has achieved positive results including 2,803 new jobs for women, 14,833 women joining business networks and AUD$8.5 million ($6 million) co-invested by the private sector.

The Deputy Ambassador also joined with local farmers and businesses in a field visit, hosted by the Aus4Innovation programme, to demonstrate CoolBot – an innovative and affordable cooling technology that helps maintain the quality of vegetable post-harvest. This investment builds on work done by both ACIAR and the GREAT programme and is adding innovative technology to support farmers to access markets and increase their incomes.

So far, eight walk-in coolers and two refrigerated trucks have been developed and transferred to local cooperatives. Initial results indicate that with cool storage and transport, vegetable losses could be reduced from 50 to 25 per cent; shelf life will be extended four-fold from 5 to 21 days for tomatoes and cabbages; and economic benefits to users can potentially improve by 10 to 30 per cent.

At the meeting with Son La People's Committee, the Deputy Ambassador noted the close partnership between Australia and Son La, discussed Australian investment in the province, and canvassed opportunities to further strengthen ties.

“The partnership between Australia and the north-western provinces of Vietnam is deep and enduring. It comprises long-term development programming, strong people to people links, as well as substantial Australian investment in mineral resources that are critical to the clean energy transition,” Tattersall said.

“Australia will continue to strengthen these ties, including as we chart a shared course towards recovery from COVID-19 and deliver on Australia and Vietnam’s shared commitment to move towards net-zero emissions by 2050.”

By Thai An

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