Workshop aims to help Vietnam’s poor take advantage of markets

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An organization called M4P is exploring how poor Vietnamese can escape poverty by taking advantage of the free market. At a recent workshop in Hanoi, experts said that using market forces to fight poverty is promising, but far from easy.Bicyclists hauling towering stacks of bamboo shrimp traps to market slowly make their way down a road 50 kilometers east of Hanoi

It has been 20 years since Vietnam first began moving toward a market economy, and rapid economic growth has brought millions of its citizens out of poverty. But the rising tide has not lifted all of Vietnam’s boats.

Vietnam’s poorest people lack the resources or skills to take advantage of business opportunities. An organization called M4P is looking at how to help them use the market to escape poverty. The name M4P stands for “markets for the poor”.

“The basic idea is that, rather than giving people handouts and so on, that people can help themselves if they’re able to participate in markets, if they get better market opportunities and they’re able to take advantage of those,” explained Alan Johnson, M4P’s project coordinator.

But getting more market opportunities is not easy. Individual farmers are too poor touse the market effectively. They have few skills, and banks will not lend them money.

[…] Agronomist Ivan Cucco has studied the bamboo economy in Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province. He says the way for growers to make more money is to stop selling raw bamboo and start doing some of the processing themselves.

“You can cut it into poles or divide it into slats and provide that to a pre-processing producer at a more advanced stage, so actually more of the value that’s generated inside the chain could be retained by smallholders and by poor producers,” he said. “And that’s where the idea of collective action steps in, because actually it’s not something that you can do individually, but you need to pool resources, to pool bamboo, and to pool capital.”

So far, bamboo growers in Thanh Hoa have not been able to improve their incomes. Their collectives are not effective, and the leaders are usually picked by the government, not by the members.

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Source: Voice of America (link opens in a new window)