Bio-Human Ecology
Livelihood & Anthropology
Social Capital for Being Human
Key farmer’s Network is a model organized in line with the initiatives of Towards Ethnic Women (TEW) and the Center for Indigenous Knowledge Research and Development (CIRD) which are civil society organizations (NGOs) acting in a range of issues regarding community development with the sake of reducing poverty at the grassroots level, through supporting the economic development of households. In Quang Binh, the predecessor of this network was formed in 1997, on the basis of the voluntary involvement key farmers in 13 mountainous communes of Tuyen Hoa and Minh Hoa and Bo Trach districts.

Started from simple activities with the spirit of sharing and mutual-helps of the interest clubs in the initial communities, local farmers become ‘keys’ as long as they are empowered by specialized techniques and knowledge along with skills on community approaches and network facilitation. With such a beginning, relationships and sharing amongst in the newtork get more closely bonded; so that a tight network has gradually been formed.

Given the goal of building new rural areas of the recent government policy, the social effective of the key farmers’ network in Quang Binh would be viewed in different angles. Within the scope of this article, I would provide a small comment, that is, for any effort, whether regaring social or economic aspect, its priorities can be evaluated accordingly accurate and objective through the development on scale. From a starting point, that is, a range of interest groups in different communes, until today, the key farmer’s network in Quang Binh has grown with the active involvement of thousands of members, coordinated by 200 key coordinators and the provincial coordinating board. The interests and themes of the network increasingly expanded. On-site trainings and study visits in terms of saving, healthcare, veterinary, agriculture, information technology, skills on community approaches, etc. are regularly held. the scope of operation of the network has expanded to not only other communes in Quang Binh, but also study exchanges with the key farmer’s networks in other provinces  in Vietnam as well as Laos and Thailand…These can be seen as the result of the proper approaches. In other words, this has really become a kind of intangible capitals of farmers…

The following stories are about a number of activities coordinated by the key farmer’s network in Quang Binh over the time with different areas…

First story: Social Capital for Poverty Escape

On the Ho Chi Minh Highway which used to be as the Ho Chi Minh Trial during the American War, traveling throughout the extent of the country, the image of peasants huddling on the field with a hard to torment, besides silent buffalo as the life itself quietly takes place every day which can be found elsewhere. Traditionally, the Vietnamese are hardworking people, but very willing to overcome difficulties… so but, not always such diligent manner also brings a prosperous life ...
In a study by the Center for Indigenous Knowledge Research and Development - CIRD, about the nature of poverty in the forest mountainous areas, one of the causes indicated, that farmers here lack of enabling opportuninities to rise up ... Opportunities vary, but the most easily visible thing to the farmers in Quang Binh, it is capital for the development of production.

Capital is the eternal factor of economic development. Have clearly realized that for many years ago, the Government has also efforted in many ways to create conditions for people to access to capital to develop production and improve their lives. Nevertheless, the policy is so, not everyone has enough conditions and knows how to make use the capital efficiently. Given such a context, CIRD since 1997 began its approaches in community development in Quang Binh, where Kim Hoa commune in Tuyen Hoa district is one of the communes in area of the project.

One of the primary initiatives during this phase is to facilitate the estabishment of different interest clubs, in which saving and credit group is first formed.
It used to be, not too long time ago, the story about credit with a series of unpleasant implications like black clouds which exhausted and ruined many families, causing allergy for many people when hearing this concept. Though, in this land, that strom did not happen. It is neither because of luck or intelligent people. As Quang Binh is a land of poor, so poor that there is not enough food to eat. In that circumstance, people found out the ways to rely on each other. From the small scale saving initiative, with only a few members in the village, they come together, share a chicken and an egg or several thousands Dong in order to start up small livestocks.  Few people believe that such an egg in one day becomes a chicken and many chickens later on. From chickens to pigs, cows, spacious house, the books for the children brought to school ... so far, saving-saving activities in Kim Hoa commune have scaled up into the communal level, with hundreds of members, and the revolving fund up to hundreds of millions Dong which are contributing greatly to poverty reduction, changing the lives of many families ... It is from these reasons, that is, the story of the operation of saving-credit group in Kim Hoa are bounded the values of mutal-helps and community sodidarity.

Although many strunggling, the happy smile really returns with Mrs. Loc and her family
In regard to the results of saving and credit, nobody did not know about the story of Nguyen Thi Loc family in Trung Ninh village in Kim Hoa commune. As a poor family with many children, struggling with the difficulties life, plus the turbulent stamping the dream of life change when the husband decided to work away, making this small family ever at the risk of breaking ...

Hardly, Mrs. Loc just borrowed her neighbors in the village, with 30,000 Dong in total. This amount is enough to buy a hen, and the dream of povery escape started from here…

A chicken become chickens, then chickens become a pig ... Puzzles of Mrs. Loc seemed to have the answer. But, as the days passed, her children have grown faster than the growth of chickens too much, and then the sun and wind of the Central with the erratic grim caused the roof of her house laying down faster than the length of the the pig's back. Poor is still poor while dept is not yet paide. A pig is just sold, but she got nothing!

The situation starts to changed as soon as Mrs. Loc planned to borrow loan from the saving-credit group. Looking at her barren austerity, whoever also feels sorry, but no one dared to lend: - "…lend her then how she could pay back…?” -  “If we do not lend her, how could her family live?". Just so, after much discussion, finally Mrs. Hoa, a key farmer in the group decided: "As being a woman like us, in the same misery, now we must help her … ".

Mortgage with love, so that it is understandable; but, it may not be a compelling reason to ensure that with such small amount of capital contributed from the collected savings of hard hands over the years. So, in the depths of this story saw somewhere the philosophy of a proverb about ‘the fishing rod and a fish’. "Let her to borrow, but must show her the ways of doing; so that, her hardship may be finished while capital of the group is secured...". The measures for securing the capital of saving groups in Kim Hoa were unexpected and too surprise.

With an amount of around 1.5 million Dong of loan at that time, Mrs. Loc only bought a bad cow which makes ‘whoever all only sighs’. Listen to the people’s blame, she become discouraged. Mrs. Hoa, who guaranteed for her to borrow loan felt rather dicouraged: - " If he (the cow) that died, I can not know how to say with women in this group ...". Then, she decided to find and learn from the manuals in rasing cows. She also asked people in the commune who have experiences in raising cows, then shared with Mrs. Loc. After a course of care, with the help of Ms. Hoa and members in the group, the small cow of Mrs. Loc became a mother cow. Mrs. Hoa sighed!
Mrs. Loc and her daughter with a buffalo - the start of the family’s business
Later-on, the mother cow was sold with 1.7 million Dong, while the price for small cow is 1.8 millon Dong. That is life change! Then, she used that money to buy a buffalo. This is true to the Vietnamese proveb, “the bufflo is the start of family’s business!”

Now, the buffalo of Mrs. Loc delivered a baby. With the current subsistent agricultural economic mode as the vast majority of people living in mountainous areas, notably ethnic minorities, Mrs. Loc family can be seen as an example; it is extremely different for them to be food sufficiency. The difficulty, poverty has long been become vicious cycle. Vegetable soup, potatoes and cassava are their daily foods. Chicken and duck meats are rare. Whole year, they have a couple of times with the piece of meat on the important events i.e. Tet, anniversary and wedding party. That is their life! The poor do not know how to find other sources of income, except have to escape from their homeland. But, thing is never changed, they become even more exhausted.

Therefore, when there is a cow in the house, such is already worthy - a property could be multiplied to change the life. From this, some ‘medium’ events such as wedding, funeral, etc. could be paid from selling chickens and pigs. The bigger events would be coverd from selling cows and buffaloes. Rich and prosperity also thank to the cows and buffalo. Then, the family becomes happy which derives from buffalo. When the road becomes convenient, buffalo could be exchanged into a motorbike; then, cow and buffalo becomes a television and radio when the electricity is available. Buffaloes and cows are as well money for their kids to go to the school.

If with Mrs. Loc by her love, trust and the spirit of dare to think and dare to do and take the responsibility of women in the saving-credit group who helped her to obtaining the loan in order to change the life, the story of Mr. Phan Xuan Mien in Kim Lua 2 is other layer of meaning. From only a small loan of the saving-credit group as a motivation, along with his knowledge of animal husbandry and veterinary, his family has developed a pig farm very effective. Of which, he has raise hundreds of pigs. On evarage, he could supply tons of meat each month to the market. Since having the pig farm, the borrowing loan from the banks to expand his production is no longer as difficult as it once was. In this story, the point is not only that he had assets to mortgages, but it is because he had the opportunity to show his abilities. Operation of the saving-credit group therefore goes beyond the simply meaning that only generates capital, which is higher; it has created opportunities for farmers. Then, such chances have brought about positive impacts to the credit policy of the local government.

To date, the livestock model of Mr. Mien family becomes a regular meeting place of farmers in the region as well as other provinces. They came to visit, study and share experiences in livestock in one hand. In other hand, they learn and exchange experiences in using the capital so that more efficient ... The prominence of the key farmer’s network is so. Who said knowledge and opportunities are not inherent capital to escape poverty as well as are the potential of the wealth!
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Ecological Livelihood Understanding
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TEW's approach to gender and development
TEW approach to ethnic groups in the highlands
Ecological capital and the story of a land lover
Social Capital and a ‘warm hand’ woman
Women Empowerment and Sinh Mun Development Project


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