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UN volunteers help to a better life for rural communities in Viet Nam
“I’m responsible for co-ordinating monitoring and evaluation activities, and on-site observation. Put more simply this means that I meet and talk with local people about their needs, and the benefits that ‘new rural development’ could bring them.”

Based in Quang Nam Province, Doan Ngoc and her colleague Minh Huong are two United Nations Volunteers that are already making an important contribution to New Rural Development. Over three years a new UN and Government Joint Programme will bring together the expertise of no less than five UN agencies to help improve the lives of the rural poor nationwide.
During a recent three-day field trip Doan Ngoc and Minh Huong, who both work with the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, demonstrated their skills in engaging the local Committee, and meeting with selected Commune officials and households in order to collect important information. The insights and data collected will be used to further improve the programme.

The initiative is already delivering results. “Introducing new rice cultivation techniques and seed varieties have reduced the number of harvests from three to two per year. But this has also doubled the yield!” explained Mr. Vo Thanh, a farmer from Binh Tu Commune who is enthusiastic about the benefits the programme is bringing.

Another farmer, Mr Doan The, also appreciates the innovations. “Thanks to mechanization techniques, which have also significantly reduced the amount of time household members need to spend working in the fields the amount of our free time significantly increased and had been utilized to take on other jobs for extra income”.

According to the two Volunteers, the programme aims to build up new rural areas with modern socioeconomic infrastructure, increase agricultural production and income at the same time as protecting the ecological environment. It has a number of components, including planning of new rural development, development of technical infrastructure including building roads and power lines, reducing poverty and improving social welfare, including improving health care services. Another important element is the building up of education and training services for communities in the local area.

In addition to the broader improvements the programme is making it is also helping to build the skills and confidence of the United Nations Volunteers. When asked they had found most challenging so far, Doan Ngoc replied “When I started everything was completely new. It took a while to understand all my tasks and how to deal with all the different organizations and procedures. But now after a few months it is not a challenge any more.”

The three-year UN joint programme on ‘New Rural Development was agreed with Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in March 2014 and is a joint UN effort from FAO, IOM, UNESCO, UNIDO and UNV. It is designed to improve agricultural production and environment protection as part of the UN’s overall goal to promote sustainable development within the context of a lower middle-income Viet Nam.

Currently there are twenty six national and international UN volunteers working for different UN agencies on different projects in Viet Nam. This programme on New Rural Development in Quang Nam is giving Doan Ngoc and Minh Huong the opportunity to demonstrate that they can actively contribute to better lives for rural communties in Viet Nam.
Text and photo: Jakub Zak
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