In 2000 Hoang Thi Hung’s husband died of a disease, and with limited farming knowledge she was no longer able to support herself and her 14-year-old son.
Hoang Thi Hung married Luong Van Hanh ten years ago when she was 24 and he was 26. They have one son who is studying in the 8th grade of Bo Gai secondary school in Can Yen village. Since her husband died Hung and her son are living with Hanh’s younger sister.
"It was a very difficult time for me when my husband died”, Hun recalled “At that time, we had just moved out from my parents in law. My son was very undernourished”.
Hung had around 1000m² of land, but did not know about any modern farming techniques. She could barely produce even 10 loads (or “gánh” - the capacity of one person carrying it on their shoulders) of maize. The pigs she raised often died very young.
We were living in scarcity of food for almost 2-3 months every year.
In the last few years we received some support from the government, including the provision of 60 kg of fertilizer, a plough, a rake and clean water.
“I was very happy when I received the plough," she said, "It is an iron plough that could not be damaged when it hits rocks and could even penetrate very deep for better soil preparation. The previous wooden plough made by myself usually broke after using it for some time".
Fortunately, Hung was also able to receive support from ActionAid Vietnam through joining one of their Reflect circles. She participated in a variety of training programmes and discussions in the Reflect circles and early on was given her turn to borrow from the group’s savings - 1 million VND (app $US 53) which she used to buy a piglet.
Thanks to the new farming techniques applied to the family production I was able to harvest 18 loads of maize last year and I sell 2 batches of 12 piglets every year.
Hung’s income has now finally increased sufficiently to support her and her son. She says proudly, “We are not included in the poverty list from 2010”.
The Reflect circle also think up their own money-saving schemes. For instance, instead of using the money allocated for buying oil for oil lamps every month (0.63USD/person), they decided to save it to put towards a communal borrowing fund.
Hung explains, “I was prioritized by the other members to use the 53 USD as the revolving fund for buying two pigs. After one year, I sold it at a price of 157 USD. I paid back 53 USD for the Reflect class and I felt very happy when being able to use the profit.”
Though the lives of Hung and her community have progressed so far, worries for the future still lurk in their minds as they still live at the mercy of the weather.
The climate here is very stern, we can easily fall in to poverty again just after a storm or heavy rain.