Lo Thi Tiep, 28, lives with her husband and two kids in a mud thatch house in Bung Lao commune, Dien Bien Province in Vietnam. The commune is home to members of the Thai ethnic minority. In that commune, more than 70 per cent of households are living below the poverty line. This is a very high rate compared to the national poverty of 14.2 per cent.
Tiep’s family has a tiny plot of land. Every day, she leaves at the crack of dawn to work in the rice paddy field but productivity is low because there’s little water to irrigate the field. To make ends meet and to be able to buy rice during the lean season, Tiep works as a seasonal laborer in a nearby coffee farm while her husband works as a mason. Despite their hard work, her family has barely earned VND 800,000 per month (equivalent to $40 US dollars).
However, since 2012 when Tiep joined a women’s group in the commune that raised pigs to earn additional income, their life has improved remarkably.
“Our life was very difficult,” says Tiep. “Now, thanks to the pigs, we have some money to buy clothes for the children and send them to school.”
To help the women in Tiep’s group jumpstart their livelihood raising pigs, a World Bank-supported project provided them with two small pigs each, some initial feed, and training on sanitation, effective feeding and disease prevention. Called the Second Northern Mountains Poverty Reduction Project, it supports the rural poor and ethnic minorities of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in northwest Vietnam.
Tiep is recognized as the best pig farmer in the group. In just one year after she started with two piglets, Tiep now has five “beautiful pigs” (in her words), which can bring her VND 12 million (almost $600) in profit over five months -- that is three times higher than her household income before she joined the group.
“I am very proud of the pigs,” says Tiep while feeding the pigs. “They are vibrant and shiny, and grow well.”
Tiep and other group members meet up monthly to visit the piggeries and share experiences in pigraising. The farmers also advertise the livestock for sale by putting up posters on the main road where traders regularly pass by. They help one another in ensuring that they don’t sell their pigs below the prevailing market price.