July 30, 2008

Vietnam mulling co-ops to combat rural poverty


To help lift Vietnam farmers from poverty, several agricultural experts concur with the suggestion that getting farmers to join forces through farm co-operatives might be a feasible solution.

Speaking at a seminar, former Deputy Head of the Southern Institute of Agricultural Studies Dr. Mai Van Quyen said most farmers lack the capital to invest adequately in production materials and equipment. Also, they also lack market knowledge to compete effectively in today's market economy.

Hence, the co-op model might help to alleviate rural poverty as co-ops lead to economic structuring of rural areas, ensuring sustainability, said Dr. Tran Minh Tam of the Academy of Politics and Administration.

Similarly, Nguyen Xuan Hien, vice chairperson of the Vietnam Alliance of Co-operatives, said establishing more co-ops would create more income for the poor, as better organization of farming operations can lead to increased productivity.

Other benefits of co-ops include access to technology, reduction of production costs, more sales channels and protection of rights.

A recent study carried out by Nguyen Mai Oanh, deputy director of the Institute for Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy, showed that despite dwindling numbers of co-ops in the country, most rural farmers are receptive to the system.

Currently, there are 6,379 agricultural co-ops in Vietnam.

However, poor management of co-ops at national and regional levels will deter progress of such a plan, said Dr. Nguyen Minh Tu, who said other obstacles include the lack of a legal framework for co-ops, and heavy dependence on state subsidies among co-op members.

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