Good Food for Cities

Access to markets and good agricultural practices: a fresh model with cucumber in Vietnam

March 14, 2022
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Since 2017, Rikolto has supported 24 cooperatives in five Vietnamese provinces and cities, including Tuyen Quang and Vinh Phuc, to produce safe vegetables.

The An Hoa farmer organisation in the Tam Duong district of Vinh Phuc was one of the first cooperatives supported by Rikolto, starting a prosperous collaboration in 2018. The cooperative specialised in the production and supply of cucumbers, and initially only sold its products to free markets - in which the prices for goods and services are self-regulated by buyers and sellers - without having a specific business orientation.

By working with Rikolto, the An Hoa Cooperative was able to improve its facilities and equipment. They were provided with seeds and fertilisers and received guidance to apply safe vegetable production practices under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS model).

Part of Rikolto's strategy was to strengthen their business and professional capacities, which could open doors to a more stable market. Therefore, the staff of the cooperative received training sessions and courses on business management, customer acquisition, and product quality management. As a result, the cooperative started to win major contracts with Big C supermarket chains in the North, businesses and industrial kitchens.

Over time, the farmers’ organisation was able to gradually extend production as well as business scale. From 5 hectares in 2019, the An Hoa Cooperative managed to extend to over 40 hectares in 2021, and the total production went up to over 500 tonnes per year.

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The chronic overuse of dangerous and low quality pesticides poses a risk for farmers and consumers. There is a rapid increase of the demand for safe, organic vegetables that meet standards of safety and hygiene. This growing demand is a great opportunity for Vietnamese vegetable farmers. The Participatory Guarantee System is used to ensure the quality of good food for people and the planet!

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A model that spreads successfully

Heading north, about 1 hour and 50 minutes’ drive by car from Vinh Phuc, is the province of Tuyen Quang. This province has a large agricultural land area with a cool climate, which is perfect for growing cucumbers. Most farmers are from Tay - the second largest ethnic group in Vietnam - Dao and Hmong, ethnic groups facing unstable sources of income from their agricultural activities.

In the province, Rikolto works with the farmers’ organisation Minh Tam located in the Thuong Am commune – facilitating onsite trainings for farmers - to improve cucumber cultivation and harvesting practices.

“In the commune, the total area for growing cucumbers is about 6.2 hectares, generating an income up to two or three times higher than growing rice,” says Luong Trung Son, vice chairman of the commune. After nearly three months of collaboration between the farmers, the cooperative, the Thuong Am commune authorities and Rikolto, the yields exceeded expectations, producing 2 tonnes per 0.036 hectare.

In 2020, the production expanded to 40 ha, with an average output of 40 tons per hectare. It did not stop there, since by early 2021, the growing area had increased to over 100 ha. It also expanded to 5 other communes in Son Duong district, with over 60 members and 597 associated farmers in Na Hang, Chiem Hoa, Ham Yen, and Yen Son districts.

The income of these farmers has been improved significantly - it is now approximately three times higher than before. More than 1, 000 farmers, especially ethnic minorities, now have jobs. The crop structure has changed, with the priority shifting from rice and maize to cucumber.

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Improving livelihoods for the Tai ethnic group

“Growing cucumbers is very effective. I don't have to worry about the product output anymore”

Mrs Nguyen Thi Hien

Mrs Nguyen Thi Hien is a Tai ethnic woman, and lives in Ao Buc village, Trung Yen commune, Son Duong district. Previously, her family had been getting low profits due to the limited productivity of their crops.

They grow short-term crops of maize and beans with limited economic efficiency. Through the cucumber supply chain with the Minh Tam cooperative, her family received training in production skills as well as fertilisers, seedlings and plant protection products.

By combining the model of improved production practices with the participatory guarantee system, and strengthening the entrepreneurial skills of the organisations, the farmers have seen an improvement in their incomes and a decrease in their production costs.

“The farmers are changing their mindset and production practices from small, traditional production to commodity production, from individual to collective. It also increases income per unit of cultivated area. The use of advanced production techniques also helps to reduce costs and to improve productivity and product quality in the value chains for sustainable agricultural development,” says Mr Nguyen Ngoc De, Deputy Director of the Agricultural Extension Centre of Tuyen Quang province.

Learn more about this model by watching the video!

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