Sustainable Animal Productivity stakeholder meeting sets stage for livestock development work among Vietnam’s ethnic minorities

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    Chi Nguyen
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Efforts to address poverty, malnutrition, and gender inequality among ethnic minority communities in Vietnam were given a boost following a 21 June 2023 gathering of livestock sector development experts in northwest Vietnam. The meeting brought together livestock sector stakeholders in Phu Yen District, Son La Province, to explore ways of transforming the sector in the short and long term.

Nestled in the mountainous northwest of Vietnam, Son La Province is primarily inhabited by ethnic minorities who make up 83% of its residents. These communities suffer from high levels of poverty, malnutrition and gender inequality. Though smallholder livestock production scale plays a crucial role in their livelihoods, the sector has low productivity, poor animal husbandry practices, inefficient food safety management, nutrition insecurity, limited market access, and low competitiveness.

CGIAR, through the Sustainable Animal Productivity for Livelihoods, Nutrition and Gender Inclusion Initiative (2022-2024), which is also known as the SAPLING Initiative, is aiming to improve livestock productivity for these ethnic minorities. Known as ‘Chan-henh’ or ‘beautiful’ and ‘better,’ in the local Thai language, the initiative will enhance the productivity, resilience, equity, and sustainability of smallholder livestock systems by promoting inclusive development of the sector. The pilot project sites for the initiative, namely Mai Son and Phu Yen districts in Son La Province, were chosen due to their favourable conditions, such as abundant feed resources, substantial livestock populations, sufficient land resources, local authorities’ support, and alignment with provincial livestock development strategies. Assessing the needs of the localities, the project will work on two value chains of pig and cattle.

Cam Thi Phong, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Son La, expressed optimism about the project and urged the project team to clarify the activities of the intervention packages at the selected sites to all partners. She emphasized the importance of increasing productivity, ensuring sustainable livelihoods, and promoting women empowerment.

The five intervention work packages of the project include:

  1. Enhance sustainable livestock productivity through innovative technologies and practices, such as enhancing artificial insemination in breeding stock and establishing demonstration farms equipped with comprehensive herd health packages.
  2. Promote the safe consumption of livestock-derived foods and enhance market supply by tackling poor nutrition within local food systems and developing a behaviour change communication package tailored to the local needs.
  3. Address gender equity and social inclusion within the livestock sector by challenging existing gender norms and empowering women, ensuring that the benefits of pioneering innovations are equally shared.
  4. Cultivate competitive and inclusive livestock value chains by establishing or strengthening common interest groups that foster collaboration and inclusivity.
  5. Empower evidence-based decision-making and facilitate the sustainable growth of the livestock sector through policy influence and fostering strong partnerships with the private sector.

The project team presented four key components of the SAPLING Initiative: sustainable livestock productivity technologies and practices, gender equity and social inclusion, competitive and inclusive livestock value chains, and policy and decision-making and scaling.

Fred Unger, regional representative for ILRI in East and Southeast Asia, outlined the project’s roadmap, saying its work will be piloted in Mai Son District before potentially expanding to Phu Yen District.

Later, participants shared insights and feedback from local partners in Phu Yen including the need for improved breeding practices, increased training on food storage techniques during dry seasons, enhanced animal health, capacity building for veterinary staff, and the need to strengthen value chain linkages. These gaps, if filled, will help overcome challenges related to animal diseases, free-range livestock practices, and limited technology adoption in the locality.

Dinh Thi Thu Ha, chairman of the People’s Committee in Phu Yen District, acknowledged the difficulties posed by the terrain, transportation, and limited technology adoption. Nevertheless, she expressed her support for the project, stating that ‘the five work packages of the project are necessary and suitable for the conditions of Phu Yen District. They will contribute to overcoming difficulties in large-scale cattle raising, socio-economic development, hunger eradication, and poverty alleviation.’ She assured the stakeholders of the local government’s commitment to the project and called for regular progress review meetings ensure timely progress, replication and sustainability of the project.

In her closing remarks, Mary Otieno, Chan-henh coordinator in Vietnam, representing the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, thanked the stakeholders noting that collective efforts will help in driving sustainable livestock transformation, reducing poverty, improving nutrition, and empowering marginalized communities.

The meeting brought together representatives from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Vietnam National Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), the National Institute of Veterinary Research (NIVR), the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), and local authorities from the Phu Yen District and Son La Province.

The stakeholder engagement meeting in Son La Province sets the stage for implementing the initiative’s interventions in the district.

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