In October 2013, Helen Keller International launched its award-winning homestead food production program in Vietnam. The program targets impoverished families in rural areas to improve food security among participating households and improve nutrition habits in impoverished communities.
One of the first target sites for the new program was Son La Province, one of the poorest provinces of Vietnam. Isolated by a challenging landscape in the north-west mountainous region and its distance from the capital city of Hanoi, Son La is also home to many of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities who are often marginalized within society.
On a recent visit to the province, I met Dinh Van Quan, who runs one the project’s Village Model Farms. These teaching sites are fully functional and used to provide live demonstrations for program participants. Model farm leaders are chosen for their enthusiasm about the program and status – often unofficial – as community influencers.
According to Mr. Quan, since the project started, more than 300 households in 12 villages have improved their way of thinking regarding gardening production.
“Prior to this project, I just bought and used chemical fertilizer for growing plants and vegetables,” he explained to me. “Thanks to the support from HKI, now I know how to improve productivity by using organic fertilizer in gardening.”
Mr. Quan has been farming for over 40 years but insisted that the farming techniques as he has learned through the project are far better than anything he had used before. He is now able to grow better quality vegetables and raise chickens and pigs more effectively and efficiently. He is also attending training sessions in microfinance so that he can continue to build a stronger income for his family.
He noted having access to the HKI staff and education session have made a huge difference for him and the other farmers in the program. “I’ve seen the difference in the past year. People are healthier and more productive here.”