The cultivation of a homeland’s rice brand
Read the story in Vietnamese here
“This area is home to delectable rice - rice grown on shrimp-farming land.”
Ms. Dieu swiftly packed the five-kilo bag of rice branded “Tri Luc” as she spoke. She didn’t hide the regret that her cooperative used to sell raw paddy to the enterprises, making little profit.
Tri Luc cooperative resides in Ca Mau – a highly suitable location for growing ST24 rice, which was once hailed as one of the best rice varieties in the world. Previously, the cooperative only harvested and sold raw paddy, even though the paddy was grown organically, causing significant waste to farmers. Realising the untapped potential, Ms. Ngoc Dieu, Deputy Director of Tri Luc cooperative, together with members in the livelihood group, launched an initiative to start selling commercial rice.
“After attending conferences, I noticed that other regions were already selling commerical rice while we weren’t. So Icame up with this idea, and we unanimously agreed to do it together,” Ms. Dieu recalled how she initiated the women's livelihood group.
The group started with seven female farmers. As they were not familiar with doing business, the women struggled with building a proper brand and packaging. Their limited network also hindered the promotion of Tri Luc rice.
Recognising the potential of the initiative, the project “Gender Transformative & Responsible Business Investment in South East Asia – GRAISEA (Phase 2)” invited experts to assist the group in packaging, manufacturing, and logistics. The project also helped mechanise the packaging process with specialised machines. “Now, we are able to seal several packets in under ten minutes. In the past, it wasn’t enough to sew even one by hand," Ms. Dieu recounted.
The livelihood group uses the packaging machinery provided by the project
To widen their social network, members of the livelihood group volunteered to attend exhibitions, fairs, and study tours organised by the project. This means more opportunities to further introduce Tri Luc rice to the market.
The women’s efforts paid off when Tri Luc rice was certified organic, rich in taste and highly concentrated with nutrients. “Ms. Dieu's initiative makes use of high-quality resources while mobilising the participation of local women. This is a low-risk side livelihood that can adapt to weather fluctuations,” commented Ms. Ngoc Cam, Project Officer at the Center for Marine Life Conservation and Community Development (MCD).
From only 7 members, the livelihood team grew to more than 30 people and expects to purchase rice from 20 households in the near future. The initiative has generated extra income for the local women, unlocked their confidence and autonomy in making decisions for themselves and their families, and enabled further investment in their main livelihoods.
Changes in the role of women are visible. Previously, cooperative meetings were mainly attended by men, but “now, both men and women participate, with women accounting for 50% or more. The women gained their confidence,” Ms. Dieu remarked. Instead of their timid former selves that often chose to sit at the rear, the women now actively voice their opinions and defend their point of view.
Ms. Dieu also found herself transforming. She used to shy away from public speaking and didn’t even know how to ride a motorbike. After participating in the project, Ms. Dieu changed her view on women’s agency: “women are perfectly capable of generating income by running their own business.” She is now the heart and soul of the livelihood group, who confidently coordinates activities among members, and is always proactive in connecting with new customers.
“Women have an important role to play. We don’t have to be dependent on men.”