By supporting small local businesses in isolated and mountainous regions, the Australian government-funded GREAT (Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism) programme has created impressive results in strengthening local women’s leadership and opportunities for local producers and service providers, especially in community-based tourism.
With the Lunar New Year arriving, delegations from the Australian embassy to Vietnam and GREAT continue to work with the northern mountainous district of Lao Cai and Son La provinces, where ethnic minority communities receive support from these two organisations.
|Ms May of the Red Dao community cooperative showcases her traditional herbal bath products, Source: vietnam.embassy.gov.au. |
These visits also serve as field trips to survey and evaluate the effectiveness of GREAT models over the years and, at the same time, provide a more effective plan for the second phase that is about to begin.
Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski and the Australian embassy delegation last year were joined by the Vietnam and Lao Cai Women’s Union on a visit to Hung Hien noodle cooperative in Lao Cai’s Bat Xat district. He was impressed by the strength of women’s leadership and the opportunities created for local producers and service providers.
Ambassador Goledzinowski noted the importance of supporting women-led businesses not only for the business itself but for the knock-on effect it had on local producers and suppliers. “Hien’s successful expansion of the cooperative is an example of the many positive impacts of supporting female business leaders. Not only does the business thrive, but local employment and income opportunities are created and, through a conscious effort to support women, we can ensure these opportunities are accessible to all,” Goledzinowski said.
With GREAT’s support, the Lao Cai Women’s Union and Green Hub ran the Promoting Women-Led Business Expansion programme in Lao Cai between April 2020 and March 2022. The project supported 32 women-led businesses, all reporting positive changes in business performance and 22 more than doubling their revenue since participating. Six women transformed their businesses from informal to formal business entities.
Hung Hien noodle cooperative director, Co Thi Hien, explained how her involvement with the expansion programme gave her the confidence and skills to expand her business.
“With the mentoring and business skills development I received, I was able to successfully lead the expansion of the noodle cooperative into new product lines, increasing revenue from $19,000 to almost $65,000 in 2022. The number of local households supplying the cooperative with red arrowroot has expanded from 15 to 70 and the business now directly employs up to 20 people in the peak season,” Hien said.
The Australian delegation also visited the community-based tourism village of Choan Then. Tourism offers a range of economic opportunities, particularly for women, and the project sought to provide 44 ethnic minority women with increased income through activities such as homestays and the provision of tourism services and experiences.
“It was fantastic to see two examples of homestays and understand the important role of local communities and government in developing Choan Then as a community-based tourism destination. I was pleased to learn that the project has also supported women’s leadership and gender equality training for women and men. Communities that utilise the skills and resources of all community members tend to thrive,” Goledzinowski said.
The GREAT programme is one of Australia’s most significant investments in Vietnam and is building the resilience of ethnic minority women in the country’s northwest through improved social and economic outcomes. The programme was delivered in partnership with the People’s Committees of Lao Cai and Son La, Vietnamese ministries, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector.
GREAT has also worked with a bamboo shoot processor in the neighbouring Yen Bai province, while Yen Thanh JSC partnered with the organisation last year to develop a high-value bamboo shoot market in Van Ho district in Son La province, increasing income for over 1,300 ethnic minority women.
The company plans to expand the bamboo supply chain in Son La province to four more districts, resulting in an additional production area of 3,000 hectares and reaching 5,700 households.
“Yen Thanh has played a significant role in establishing and expanding the bamboo shoot sector in Son La through effective business links with local cooperatives that help them to access high-value markets. Australia supports the private sector’s role in promoting women’s economic empowerment in the mountainous areas of Vietnam’s northwest,” Goledzinowski said.
| ||Australia to provide long-term support for Lao Cai |
Through the GREAT programme, Australia will continue to support Lao Cai province to promote the sustainable development of agriculture and community tourism and improve women’s empowerment.
| ||Workshop promotes Lao Cai - India tourism cooperation |
A workshop discussing orientations to promote tourism cooperation between Vietnam's northern mountainous Lao Cai province and India was held virtually on August 5.
By Tra My