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Empowering Viet Nam’s women and rural poor

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sericulture"The silkworms allow me to produce sufficient silk yarn for the family weaving activities,” says Mrs. Kieu, who grows her mulberry trees on a 600 square meter plot along the riverbank. Like many Vietnamese farmers, Lang Thi Kieu, a widow who lives with her two sons and daughter-in-law, struggles to make ends meet. Farming doesn’t produce enough to support her family, so she supplements her income with weaving - but the silk she needs to make her crafts is expensive.

Now Mrs. Kieu is raising her own silkworms as part of the UN Joint Programme “Green production and trade to increase income and employment opportunities for the rural poor”. This UN Joint Programme targets about 4,800 farming and craft-producing households in four northern provinces of Viet Nam, including 1,400 beneficiaries from disadvantaged ethnic minority groups.

Boosting silk production

Mrs. Kieu can raise these silkworms with help from this MDG-F-funded programme to boost rural incomes. The initiative is providing some 200 households with a new high-yielding variety of mulberry - which silkworms eat - that produces trees and leaves two to three times larger than traditional varieties. The new mulberry trees can be harvested six months after planting, feed six to eight cycles of silkworms a year, generating the equivalent of three to four months’ average income for Mrs. Kieu’s family.

Improving value chains

The programme's approach is to develop better integrated, pro-poor, and environmentally sustainable “green” value chains in the production of bamboo/rattan, sericulture (raising of silkworms) and weaving, sea grass, lacquerware, and handmade paper. The goal is to enable poor growers, collectors and producers to improve their products and link these to more profitable markets.

In the sericulture initiative, demonstration sites were prepared in the villages concerned to show best practices in the cultivation of mulberry trees and to encourage local people to grow mulberry. The programme provided silkworm eggs as well as technical guidance on the use of fertilizer while minimizing the use of environmentally-damaging pesticides.

Similarly, practical Farmer Fields Schools have been organized for farmers, and public-private partnerships have emerged that provide further support to growers. The programme has also provided technical training to some 150 farming households and local staff on the sustainable exploitation of wildly growing Lung bamboo, which is being depleted due to over-harvesting.

Mr. Hoang Binh Thuy, chairman of his commune’s agricultural services cooperative, says that he and his fellow-farmers are very grateful for the mulberry seedlings and training on mulberry plantation that they have received from the joint programme.

Empowering Viet Nam’s women and rural poor

The joint programme “Green production and trade to increase income and employment opportunities for the rural poor”, a collaboration between the Vietnamese government and the ITC, UNCTAD, FAO, UNIDO and ILO, disproportionally benefits women, as they are traditionally more engaged with craft production. As such, the programme contributes directly to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and hunger and increasing gender equality and environmental sustainability.

More information

There is a Joint UN study available that values women's economic empowerment and silk production boost: “Taking a Value Chain Approach towards Local Economic Development and Women’s Economic Empowerment”. This study focuses on the sericulture value chain in Quy Chau district of Nghe An province in Viet Nam.

You can also read more on our website about the UN Joint Programme “Green production and trade to increase income and employment opportunities for the rural poor”.

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