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Norway-funded $5mil project revives infertile agricultural land

VIET NAM - A US$5mil project has revitalised lands once unsuitable for living and farming and has given hope and purpose to the residents of 11 poor Vietnamese coastal communities.

Farmers in Trieu Phong District's Trieu Thach Commune tend cashew trees.

This project has directly benefited over 41,000 farmers and an additional 20,000 residents, in the development of improvements such as better street circulation, dikes to prevent sand encroachment and increased agricultural capabilities.

Rural poverty in Vietnam has led to this type of project as a way of improving the use of land and the quality of life for the village residents.

The project works by granting land and money to the residents - 0.5 to 1 hectare of land and VND12-13mil for fertiliser and seed in the case of Trieu Phong District - as a social mechanism for improving the lives of residents while allowing them to reciprocate value and labour into the economic system.

To date there are 11 such villages, consisting of 545 poor households. The improvements of gardens, fish ponds and cattle pens which produce between VND10mil and VND30mil for the once struggling farmers.

These farms require the natural resources and protection, therefore eight canals for irrigation and 12km of dikes to prevent erosion have been constructed.

Also, 900ha of protective forest has been planted to further combat erosion and another 523ha is coloured with the vibrant green of peanuts and various other plants.

The residents of Trieu Phong District are eager for their chance to benefit from this project, they welcome a new life in what used to be a barren and poverty stricken area of Vietnam.

"The project of developing rural, coastal areas of the district funded by Norway has partly contributed to this optimism," said Phan Ngoc Kieu, Secretary of the district's Party Committee.

Trieu An Commune, another beneficiary of this project, donates one hectare of barren land and provides the necessary investments" in ploughs and seed to members of the land improvement movement.

"Actually, it is like a revolution, changing people's lives entirely," said Hoang Cong Hoa, Secretary of Trieu An Commune's Party Committee.

Between 2001-2003, one ha of improved land can produce VND7mil every year and an incredible 90% of infertile land has been improved.

"In order to stabilise development, future projects will focus on aquaculture breeding," said Le Canh Bien, Vice Chairman of Trieu Phong District.

With the assistance of the Seafood Research Institute and Aquaculture Department of Quang Tri, the central province including Trieu Phong, are drawing up plans for seafood farms benefiting poor people and supporting environmental improvements. The seafood development plan will be carried out between now and 2010.