The vegetable collective at Tan Ngai hamlet, Luong Hoa A commune, Chau Thanh district, Tra Vinh province has been established since November 12, 2013 with 12 members. And they all was trained in Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) including integrated pest management and a few of them were sent to conferences on growing vegetables in other provinces to learn more experiences and shared them with the rest. The purpose of the collective is to supply good vegetables to consumers. At the beginning, the collective’s 2 hectare of land produced about 60 tons of vegetables such as bitter melon, gourd, squash, cucumber, chilli, peanut etc a year of 2 crops. At present, the members increase to 26 and the collective’s 3.5 hectare of land produce 100 tons of vegetables per year.
At the beginning the collective did not have any stable markets. Two weeks before harvesting the vegetables, everybody must look for wholesalers or middlemen everywhere and found no ones and they had to sell to detailers at small markets and the prices were not stable. And then, Mr. Ngo Tan Phuoc, one member who volunteered to collect the vegetables of every member and found some wholesalers at Bach Dang market in Tra Vinh province to supply to. Therefore, the collective had a stable market then.
In 2017, Dinh Huong Company Limited, made a contract to purchase the collective’s vegetables for its outlet chain in Tra Vinh. In addition, the collective has registered their brand Logo at the Department of Science and Technology of Tra Vinh. The collective has been provided a store by the local authorities for selling their own product at a market in Chau Thanh town since October 28, 2017. The store opens 7 days a week and on average supplies 50 kilogram of vegetables a day to consumers and makes profit of 3,500,000 VND a month. The collective’s turnover was 700 million VND in 2017. On average, one family of the collective can make a profit of $1,778 a year from planting vegetables.
The collective’s members have to join monthly meeting and each of them deposit 50,000 VND to their group saving, which is used to provide four-month loans to a few of them in turn. Mr. Nguyen Van Hen said, “Joining the collective, we have been trained in vegetable growing technique and we share our experiences on how to get high yield and low input costs and make production collective plans to meet the market demands and to avoid planting the same vegetables”. Many vegetable seed companies have offered the collective quality seeds at a lower prices and extended payment to after the members harvest and sell their crops.
In order to produce safe vegetables, the collective’s members must know how to make nursery garden and record the process of vegetable growth to draw lessons learned for following crops. In addition, they must reduce usage of pesticide and chemical fertilizer as much as possible and are recommended to spray twice per crop at most in bad conditions. They also take advantages of cow manure to treat with Trichoderma and use it as fertilizer before planting seed. When they spray their vegetables, they have to conform to five points, which are (1) choosing the right pesticide, (2) using the right dose suggested by the producers, (3) spraying at the right time when insects are sensitive to the pesticide, (4) practicing as guided by the producer and (5) ensuring the right harvest time after spraying.
To prevent pests, the farmers cover their vegetable land, use fly traps, select seed carefully. Mr. Nguyen Tan Phat, one of the collective’s members said, “Before joining the collective, my family planted tomato and bitter melon but the income was fluctuate and I sprayed too much. After joining the collective, I learn to limit spraying and know how to treat cow manure as fertilizer and our income is higher and more stable”.
Ms. Le Thi Thuan, another collective member said, “I’ve joined the collective for more than three years and I see the successfulness of this model. My tomato and pea are in harvest time. My family’s yearly income from planting vegetables is twice higher than that from planting them in a traditional way because we do not need to use too much pesticide and chemical fertilizer”. Mr. Thien, the chairman of the People’s Committee of Luong Hoa A commune said, the vegetables collective at Tan Ngai is one of the efficient collectives, which should be duplicated. The collective not only brings high income for its members but also creates jobs for 9 people to work as hired labors for an income of $5.7 per day per person, which contributes to the commune’s ending hunger and poverty.
Mr. Nguyen Van Dua, the leader of his POG self-help group of the Improving the Livelihood of Vulnerable Families in the Mekong Delta project (VN7535) said, “my group has joined Heifer project since 2016 as POG group and were passed on the gifts by original families and were supported revolving fund for vegetables production. With the support from Heifer project and the People’s Committee of Luong Hoa commune in consulting traceability for their produce, the collective piloted to stick verified trace labels on farm produce”.
In the coming time, the collective plans to invest in growing vegetables in net house or hydroponics and expand vegetable land from 8 acres to 10 acres and is looking for fund and new markets.
For Heifer Vietnam, the collective is a good model for small producers with limited land and techniques in growing vegetables to cooperate to meet greater market demands. It also helps participants to reduce both input costs and middle layer costs, increasing their living income dramatically. In addition, the collective has required all participants to meet safety standard production and be responsible for their product quality. Heifer has mobilized resources and support from local to province stakeholder level to link farmers to customers. With those support, the farmer can build their brand name for their product with low cost, have a free renting fee shop to sell their product directly to customers. Finally, smallholders have learned how to do and implement their own collective business plan - a strong foundation for stronger cooperation to meet greater market demands.
Story and photos by Phan Nguyen Khanh Trang
Senior Program Officer
Edited by Tran Huu Ly
Senior Planning Monitoring & Evaluation Officer