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Rural training reaps rich harvest for locals
  • | VIR | April 04, 2011 10:33 AM

An European Union-funded pilot community-based training for economic empowerment programme, known as CB-TREE, with International Labour Organisation (ILO) as executing agency, has taken root in central Ha Tinh province, adding momentum to the Vietnamese government’s bid to provide vocational training in rural areas.

Investing in training and education is a key pillar for Vietnam’s future economic growth

Tran Thi Thanh lives in a remote mountainous area with difficulties in infrastructure, economic conditions and career opportunities in central Ha Tinh province.

Like many other women trying to earn a living, Thanh is working in agricultural production and as a temporary worker far from home. She once hoped to get a passport and work in Taiwan to earn more cash for her five-member family. “However, I changed my mind two years ago, as CB-TREE began to take root in my village, through various training and job opportunities,” Thanh said.

For her, though the CB-TREE is something very difficult to remember, but “it can change her family’s life”.

“I have learnt how to make lanterns from rattan and bamboo as a new way of securing our livelihood,” said Thanh, whose family’s income had risen by 15 percent thanks to making lanterns.

Thanh is among 400 poor farmers from the province’s Can Loc district’s My Loc commune and Thach Ha district’s Thach Van commune that were selected for CB-TREE programme , which aims to provide vocational training courses in 11 jobs, or 11 subprojects, such as lantern weaving, vegetable production, commodity-based pig production, carpentry, construction and beekeeping.

So far, 384 local people have participated in the programme’s activities, reaching 96 percent compared with original target of 75 percent, of whom 279 participants were women, accounting for 72.7 percent of total beneficiaries.

For example, 96 people, including 80 women, have engaged in the 80-day lantern weaving training course, which was also helped by locally-owned Duc Phong Company, a handicraft exporter. After that, all of them have been employed by the company, with a stable USD1 as net income for every product. “Some 65 percent of beneficiaries questioned responded that their income had increased after participating in the CB-TREE,” according to a report on CB-TREE written by the ILO, the EU and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).

Specifically, the report noted that the poverty rates in Thach Van and My Loc in 2008 were 32 and 28 percent, respectively. However, the rates declined to 12 and 11.8 percent, respectively, partly thanks to CB-TREE, which also helped 78 percent of participants have stable employment after joining it.

A potential fishing rod

For the first time piloted in Vietnam in these two communes, the EU-funded 24 month CB-TREE, with ILO as executing agency in cooperation with the MoLISA’s General Department of Vocational Training (GDVT) as national implementing agency, started in March 2009 in the context that poverty persisted and was concentrated especially in rural areas despite remarkable progress in poverty reduction and decent work promotion which is seen as a challenge for the government.

“Investing in skills development, knowledge building and training are key issues for Vietnam’s competitiveness. Skills and knowledge are engines of economic growth and social development, and it is through skills and knowledge that women and men can enjoy equal access to decent work and productive employment,” said Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard, director of the ILO Office in Vietnam.

According to the ILO, one of Vietnam’s biggest challenges as its transitions to a market-oriented economy is matching the qualifications of job seekers to meet the skill requirements of employers. CB-TREE has satisfied the urgent need through partnership with public and private sector institutions to provide training to the have-nots that is demand driven and that will provide this labour force with the relevant skills to successfully find a job, create local income opportunities and help develop their villages.

By providing such training in relevant practical knowledge, skills and entrepreneurship capacities, CB-TREE has enabled and facilitated the rural poor to become entrepreneurial and employable.

In My Loc, CB-TREE has provided 20 locals with beekeeping training courses, with modern beekeeping knowledge and basic skills. The locals have been able to maintain and develop bee colonies on a commodity base. Besides, a beekeeper club has also been established.

For approaching potential market with great number of tourists at nearby Dong Loc Historical T-junction site, CB-TREE has combined with Ha Tinh Centre for Community Development to support the club to set up a trademark and develop its own brand for honey which is then sold locally.

“A new brand called ‘Tra Son Forest Bee’s Honey’ was born, designed and printed beautifully. Also, the club started cooperation with two shops selling the product at the site based on the agreement of both sides,” said Le Van Dinh, representative of the centre.

“A training course has provided 20 bee keepers with basic skills on advanced beekeeping methods. The number of bee colonies increased from the initial 40, provided by the programme, to 53 now, with good quality,” he said.

According to Ha Tinh Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, because this was a new activity, it could not be fully assessed the impact on job creation and increase of income for residents earning cash from beekeeping.

“However, initial outcomes showed a potential for sustainable job creation and improved income from beekeeping in My Loc,” Dinh said.

“Bee experts said the commune’s natural conditions enable a total of 300 colonies, equivalent to 60 keepers. Thus, the job opportunity for additional 40 residents involved in beekeeping is entirely feasible,” Dinh said.

When implemented, CB-TREE subprojects have also been supported by local financial funds and cooperatives, which provided convenient business procedures and material sources.

“For example, the boat making group, including 20 labourers, in Thach Van was given VND100 million (USD4,784) as preferential loan to build workshops and purchase machines,” Dinh said.

Hope for a big future

Farmer Thanh said that she was quite upbeat about her new life.

“My joining CB-TREE has given various positive things to my family. Never have I thought of it before. Though income earned from the new job [lantern making] is not high now, but I do believe we can permanently live on it in the future,” she said.

Ha Tinh Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ director Nguyen Van Son expected CB-TREE to continue being multiplied in the province.

“We would like to see CB-TREE’s second phase to be implemented in the province, because at present, only 20 percent of rural workers can have access to vocational training, most of whom are poor women aged between 35-55,” Son said.

However, GDVT general director Nguyen Tien Dung said that the CB-TREE programme had been a good experience in vocational training for rural labourers and contributed to the government’s efforts to promote economic opportunities for the poor rural people.

According to the MoLISA, vocational training, particularly vocational training for rural labourers, is an urgent need of the government, as low-quality rural labour is now a big obstruction for rural areas to woo investors and enterprises.

The MoLISA is the lead ministry currently coordinating with relevant ministries to implement the Project for Vocational Training for Rural Labour until 2020 under Decision 1956/QD-TTg dated November 27, 2009 issued by the prime minister.

“CB-TREE’s success will help boost the implementation of the prime minister’s Project for Vocational Training for Rural Labour up to 2020. Also, CB-TREE will also likely be aped in similar programmes throughout rural areas in Ha Tinh in particular and in Vietnam in general,” Dung said.

Hans Farnhammer, first secretary and head of the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam’s Economic Development Section, said that the CB-TREE programme contributed to decent employment and empowerment of disadvantaged groups, rural women, youth and ethnic minorities.

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