2007-2009′s Success Stories
Lo Thi Inh, 22 – Ban Banh village
Khải, two year-old, sits in his mother’s lap and talks softly to a piece of candy shaped like a cat. Lò Thị Ỉnh smiles shyly at her toddler, steadying him as he jostles around. She is resting before taking a trip into the forest to collect firewood, which is sold for extra income. It is lunchtime and the July sun beats heavily outside on the early rice crops in Bản Bánh village (Mương Phăng commune, Điện Biên district).
Mrs. Ỉnh has been a Chi Em partner for going on five months, as last March she took out a loan of 1,368,000 VND (about 52 euros). She used this loan to purchase a pregnant sow from a local H’mong trader. One month later, the pig birthed five piglets. Two of the piglets died shortly thereafter, squashed inadvertently by their mother, but Mrs. Ỉnh has brought up
the other three piglets well. She feeds the pigs homegrown cassava mixed with corn and ground rice, which she purchases. “I’ll sell the piglets when they are about five months old,” Mrs. Ỉnh explains. “But I’ll keep the mother for breeding.”
Bản Bánh is entirely ethnically Thai and a close-knit community of relatives and friends. Two years ago, Mrs. Ỉnh, her husband and child moved out of her parents’ house and into a private shack. In recent months, they upgraded and built a stilt house with funds borrowed from a kind relative. Outside of informal lending from family members, Chi Em is the only
source of loan capital for Mrs. Ỉnh. “I’m grateful to the program” Mrs. Ỉnh states. “I don’t have a loan from the state bank because I don’t have an official residency permit yet.”
Mrs. Ỉnh’s family finds entrepreneurial means to meet Chi Em’s monthly repayments on time, which she admits are sometimes difficult. Her husband finds work in construction, but Mrs. Ỉnh argues that women don’t need to rely on men to earn money. “A woman could collect firewood,” she says, “or rent herself out as a day-laborer on a farm.”
Khải suddenly comes racing in the room, dodging small cups of water with surprising agility. He lands with a thump in his mother’s lap, who laughs because she sees that he’s running from a cat. Her arm resting over Khải’s shoulder, Mrs. Ỉnh smiles. A hard-working mother and entrepreneur, she is a prime example of a Chi Em partner.
Lo Thi Danh, 56 –Hung Yen village
Danh is raising her granddaughter, 2, whose parents are both teachers working in another province. The child’s parents are only able to come back three times a year to visit. Because of her grandchild, Danh no longer works in the rice fields and is supported by her other children who give Danh and her husband rice and vegetables.
Danh would raise chickens and pigs if she had money. With a little extra income, she would be able to send her grandchild to nursery school and when the time comes, buy her school supplies.
“If there isn’t enough money, we can’t educate the children and that’s why people are getting into debt so they can go to school,” Danh explained. “It would be an opportunity for our grandchildren.” Danh wishes that her daughter could be transferred to work closer to home and be reunited with the family.
Duong Thi Loi, 47 –Huoi Le village
Loi is a widow with a 13 year-old girl and a 14 year-old boy. Her husband died of a stroke three years ago. She farms rice alone and can only produce enough rice for three months out of the year. Loi owes the state bank 4 million VND for her oldest son’s wedding eight months ago. Every 3 months, she has to repay 62,000 VND. She grows some vegetables, but must borrow rice from her neighbors to survive. It costs 500,000 VND to send the children to school and she simply does not know where she will get this money.
“My situation is very hard,” Loi said. “I don’t have anyone to help me, other than the goodness of my neighbors. But they have trouble making ends meet too. I’d like to raise more animals, and I wish I could think of something I can do to make money, but I don’t have any skills other than weaving and sewing, and I can’t read or write. If you can think of something for me to do to earn money, I’d really like that.”
Lo Thi Chung, 37 –Huoi Pung village
Chung is married with three girls and one boy. She lives with her husband, mother-in-law and unmarried sister-in-law, Lan (21) who is saving up money to get married. They are rice farmers who harvest once a year in October. Chung’s family also grows cassava, corn and some herbs. They almost never eat meat. Chung gets up at dawn every day, prepares the fire, and cooks the morning meal which consists of rice and vegetables. She, her husband and Lan work in the fields until about it gets hot around 11 am when they come home to rest. They return to the fields until around 5 pm for their evening meal. The children go to the local school which goes up to 5th grade. In the rainy season from May until October, they do a little gardening, but do not work in the fields. She does not weave or sew and cannot read or write.
The family rarely has cash. They have no assets other than their chickens and pigs. Their annual rice crop feeds the family for only eight months and from February until June, they must borrow rice from people in the valley. When their rice crop comes in, Chung repays every borrowed bag of rice with 1.3 – 1.5 bags of rice. The family has a 400,000 VND debt which must be repaid in the fall. “I borrow from one person to pay the other,” said Chung.
“In the past, we were always hungry,” she said “we had nowhere to turn.” She said they are still often hungry and the kids need clothes. Her mother-in-law has been ill physically and mentally for more than 20 years and needs medicine, although there is none in the village. “I want my son to be happy when he grows up and to have work so he can look after us when we get old,” Chung said. Her daughters inevitably will get married and move away.
Lo Thi Xuong, 28-ish, married with two children – Huoi Pung village
Xuong isn’t sure how old she is but she does know that her son is 9 and her daughter is 10. She and her husband are rice farmers. They have a precious motorbike which they keep under the house in a pen, like a buffalo. The couple is in debt for rice they have borrowed at 50% interest, and they have a 300,000 VND debt for the bout of malaria Xuong underwent a few months ago. She checkedinto the commune health clinic for a week. “Our debt grows with each generation,” Xuong said. “We are still paying off the debts of our parents.”
Although everyone in the village is poor, those who are slightly better off, the village head for example, do not lend money to his relatives. “He’s afraid that he won’t get paid back if he lends money to family,” Xuong said. “So the family has to borrow money from outsiders when they’re in dire need.”
Xuong raises chickens, but has to be vigilant. “People steal the chickens when we’re out in the fields working,” she said.
Lo Thi Peng, 39 –Noong Bua Village
Peng is single, which is unusual for Black Thai women who usually marry by the age of 18. Peng considered marrying once but her father disapproved of her suitor and threatened to disown her, so she remains unmarried. Peng lives with her parents and her sister, who is also unmarried, but she has a son. There are eight other members of her family, including her parents, siblings and children. Like everyone in her family, Peng is a rice farmer. She also weaves and sews whenever she has a spare moment, usually after lunch when others are taking a siesta and in the evening for a few hours. She makes clothes for the
family and blankets. The family scrimped for a year before they could buy a television, which everyone watches avidly. “We are all on the look out for medical treatments for my mother who has every ailment you can imagine,” Peng said. The family works every day except during the three day Tet New Year holiday.
Peng does not make money from rice farming, but grows rice as her contribution to feed the family. If she had money, she’d like to raise more chickens and pigs to enhance family income. The medicine for her mother’s ailments is costly and the family pays in cash for the drugs. “My mother has tried everything,” Peng said “and we don’t even know what she’s sick with half the time, but we must keep trying to make her better.”
Vu Thi Quyen, Chi Em partner in Noong Het commune
Across the endless green and fertility of Muong Thanh, there appear houses on stilts. A little road leads us to house of Ms. Vu Thi Quyen in Village 4 – Pung Khau – Noong Het. This is the second time that Ms. Quyen joined the Chi-Em Project with total borrowing of VND 3 111 000. She decided to invest into pig raising.
Within four fishponds of four thousand square meters in total, her family raises a wide range of fishes such as pike fish, major carp, and tilapia, etc. The pond is firmly surrounded by reinforced edge, as well as equipped with a system of spillways, which ensures healthy environment for fish. Also, elephant grass is planted neatly around the edge, well-fertilized by manure. Grass, in turn becomes foodstuff for fish. Next to the pond is the pigsty with 10 pigs of 50 kilogram per each. Foodstuff for those pigs is the combination of processed foodstuff and home-grown products such as corns, rice, and manioc. Besides, tilapia in the pond is processed into protein-rich foodstuff for pigs. Manure from pigs is exploited into making fertilizers for crop plants.
Besides fish and pigs, her family also raises chickens and egg-laying hens. Those domestic fowls provide considerable income for the family, at the same time, consumes the leftovers.
While enjoying a fragrant cup of tea, they confide to me that “The more domestic animals we raise the more regular our income will be. Many a little makes a mickle”.
Upon being asked on difficulties encountered with a modest income of VND 340,000 per month, she answered with a smile: “For me, this income level is not a big deal because just a while of fishing in our ponds can earn us ten thousand dong with such an ease”.
I asked “What do you expect from this project?” She replied “We hope to receive both attention and instruction on technical issues and chicken-raising. For instance, many of our chickens died of diseases whereas we could not do anything”.
After enjoying green tea, we took the last look of their livestock farm and the orchard. Then Ms. Ai – credit assistant – accompanied us to nearby families which are successful in raising pigs. If only all families apply the diversification of plants and domestic animals, their income will be considerably improved along with living standards of families and communities.
Tong Thi Hat – Noong Het village
Mrs Lo Thi Hac, one of the first partners in Noong Het commune under Chi Em microfinance progarm, has a typical household agriculture-based economy in Dien Bien province. Her family income is from rice and maize, which depends much on climate and weather. In some year, this source is sufficient for living, but in other years, it is not. Bad weather can lead to crop loss, and her family may suffer from hunger. Since joining Chi Em, Mrs. Hac is getting to know the need to diversify income resources and the techniques to save expenses. With a loan of 1,500,000 VND at the 2nd loan cycle, she spent nearly 1 million VND on buying 4 piglets and the remaining on 15 chicks. Maximizing the benefits from an existing large vegetable garden and the by-products from rice and corn, she does not have to buy food for breeding the pigs and the chicken. Taking the advantages of living in the mountanous areas, she raises her chicken in open air. (Chickens raised in such condition often have tasty meat and can be sold at a higher price).
“Raising chicken in the mountainous areas is economical, less expenses on food and the townspeople like this kind of chicken, so we can sell them with high price. We also use chicken eggs for family food supply or keep them to have chick baby for selling”, she shared her lessons at the cluster monthly meeting.
Following advices from the commune credit officer on diversification of income resources, Mrs. Hac uses the income from chicken and pig to invest into buffalos. This year, she bought a third buffalos. Moreover, she renovated her pond and transfers it into a fish raising. According to her estimate, from next year, she can sell fish 2 or 3 times a year and get around 500 000 VND each time.
She thanks very much for the technical support provided by Chi Em, typically by the Training Officer, who followed her at each steps in her development.
Joinig Chi Em she benefits from obtaining important know-how on how to raise livestocks, fish and buffalos. She hoped that Chi Em program would continue its support to women; especially to those who are from poor families and who are marginalised. She thanked the program for its practical support by offering loans to such women like her and helping them keep off from borrowing money with usury interest rate. She sent her special thanks Ms. Katharine, the founder of Chi Em program, and wished Katherine a good health, good job and expressed a desire to meet Katharine again one day in Vietnam.