Sustainable Farms Fight Poverty in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

By: Ly Quoc Dang & Laura Nalin

Tucked away behind the banks of the Mekong Delta lies the Y-Farm, formally known as the Mekong Youth Farm Network. Y-Farm, a groundbreaking sustainable farming initiative, is making a positive impact in Can Tho City in more ways than one. The project, led by Ly Quoc Dang, aims to improve the livelihood of local community members while also serving as aneducation for young generations in Vietnam on the importance of renewable, eco-friendly efforts.

Mekong Delta

The Y-Farm project is linked with the Warm Hold Association, a volunteer-led nonprofit working with HIV positive individuals in the Mekong region.

The impassioned constituents of the Y-Farm are a mixture of local community members as well as applicants of The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a small grants competition for young leaders in Southeast Asia. There are currently nine members of the Mekong Youth Farm Network; the team is from five different countries. The network assists more than 250 young people within the district as well as 25 young farmers and students. The ultimate goal is to encourage youth in the area to become interested in organic agriculture while promoting income improvement for disadvantaged women.

Why the Binh Thuy District is an Ideal Eco-Farming Location in Vietnam

Binh Thuy District, where the farms are located, is known for its lush green spaces and its expansive vegetable production. The fact that the farm functions in this region is what makes the program successful. Two of the main goals of Y-Farm are to provide part-time jobs for impoverished women living within the local provinces as well as provide free, healthy and safe food for orphaned children.

The network is committed to helping poor community members rise out of poverty, and proves itself in several ways. Much of the farm’s produce is sold at local shops, serving as an affordable alternative for poor and homeless locals.

Mekong Delta

While the Mekong Youth Farm Network mainly functions as spaces for farmers, volunteers and researchers to do their work, some of the farms also serve as an opportunity for tourists to gain insight into life in Can Tho City. If they’d like, tourists can link up with a local family and stay on their farm for a few days for an unmatched. experience.

How One Company’s Transparency is Changing the Sustainability Game

The Y-Farm isn’t the only project in the Binh Thuy District working toward sustainability. Les Vergers du Mekongthe Orchards of the Mekong River has been working directly with local farmers since 2000. The French-owned company has established long-term relationships with community agriculturists, and produces gourmet coffee, honey, juices, tea and jam. According to the company’s website, the orchards generate what is estimated to be more than six million tons of fruit per year, with more than 30 different varieties, including mango, pineapple, raspberries and passion-fruit.

Mekong Delta

Sophie Boyadjian, Export and Marketing Director for Les Vergers du Mekong, stated that operating business in such close proximity to the farmers in Binh Thuy District has done wonders for all involved. From the very beginning, the company’s founder Jean-Luc Voisin created a unique business model with the concept of farm-to-table in mind. The presence of the strong local supply chain combined with the processing of natural products that get directly distributed throughout Vietnam is what has made his business so successful in the region.

Boyadjian added that a common goal of Les Vergers du Mekong is to share the success with the famers, staff and community as a whole. During the early stages of business, Voisin and his team invested in a program to successfully integrate local farmers into the larger supply chain. By creating several training centres throughout the Binh Thuy District, the company has been able to collect fruits with 100 percent traceability, preserve the natural ecosystems and promote environmental agriculture certifications, according to Boyadjian.

The company’s unique business model has become a staple in the region and will continue to seek ways to build upon a sustainable future in Vietnam and beyond.

“Real sustainability can only be truly achieved when all parts of the value chain work together and especially to integrate the small farmers in the food value chains,”, Boyadjian said. “Sourcing for shared value reinforces our contribution to preserving the environment;, stimulating the well-being of communities; and securing resources for the long term. By building sustainable value chains, we seek to revitalise rural communities, improve the living standards of the small-scale farmers, increase the quality and quantity of fruits they produce.”

Mekong Delta

Although programs like the Y-Farm and Les Vergers du Mekong are currently few and far between, it will be absolutely necessary to integrate sustainable efforts into Vietnam’s business efforts in order for it to thrive. The nation’s absence of practical recycling solutions combined with unhealthy food production practices are driving it to a point of recklessness,; many of its citizens suffering as a result. With companies looking toward the future, Vietnam can successfully join the global ranks both economically and sustainably.

Video source: Youth Farm Network Mekong

Image source: youthfarmnetwork.org

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