Why sell it cheap

Lan's story in weave project

Having not accepted the fact that the market shock would take away the husbandry results, she confidently  put forward creative ideas to overcome the likelihood of production loss and triggered a potential for the development of a new business for her family and community...

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Ms. Tran Thi Lan, a highland farmer from Khoi Bung Village, Bao Nhai Commune, has been raising pigs for over 20 years during which she has never seen pork price fall so drastically. She and her husband, Vinh, live with their two daughters. The family’s main income comes from Vinh’s work in repairing electrical devices and her labour in raising pigs. A few years ago, their family lived under poverty line, they were trying their best to get out of poverty and earned enough to cover their children’s schooling expenses. However, the sharp decrease of pork price in early 2017 made it really difficult for them to afford the children’s college tuition and other costs

In early 2017, the village head informed that there would be a meeting of villagers to discuss household economic development. Ms. Lan joined the meeting out of curiosity and hope. There, she learned about the project “Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) The project supports villagers, especially women, to increase activeness to earn a more sustainable income from raising pigs.

Couples are encouraged to participate in training or discussions on a wide range of topics such as housework sharing between husband and wife, household economic development planning, livelihood and market analysis, collective action in production and market access, pig raising skills to meet market requirements, and so on. Ms. Lan and her husband decided to join one of the Pig Raising Groups of Khoi Bung village.

The couple enjoyed activities organized by the project and their group. If Vinh would be busy, Ms. Lan joined the activity herself, and share with her husband later. Training sessions and discussions provided an opportunity for the couple to communicate more, understand each other’s secret dreams and each other’s workload. Previously, Vinh never would never help in husbandry or do housework, but he is now voluntarily preparing pig bran and feed them or prepare meals to ease his wife’s workload.  There has been more happiness and laughter in the family.

For Ms. Lan, however, the real breakthrough is the confidence she gained after each training and group activities. When the group leader is busy, she takes charge and leads the group’s activities. Group members were encouraged to share problems and find solutions in pig raising, especially when pork price dropped from VND 45,000 down to VND 18,000 per kilogram in June 2017.

Group members discussed and agreed to buy animal feed together so they got a better price. They also shared about pig selling price to avoid dumping price given by traders. Lan was actively involved in a “core group” to look for other buyers. Through sharing information and participating in study tours, Lan learned that fresh sausages produced in Lao Cai city did not meet market demand. A bold idea ignited ‘why do I have to sell my pigs at a dumping price while the market demand for sausage is high?’ The thought grew in her mind and she decided to share it with her husband; she said, “If we could make sausages for sale, we would be able to use our own pigs and also our group members’”.

Her husband hesitated at first, worrying about the plan’s feasibility, whether they could find stable buyers and whether the production cost would be higher than Chinese sausage price. Ms. Lan herself did have the same concerns, but believed that if her product is carefully processed, ensuring food hygiene and safety, they would have opportunities for good quality products. She also shared her plan with the WEAVE project staff and was encouraged by them. The project would pay for her apprenticeship in Lao Cai City. The Commune authorities also promised to help her get Food Safety and Hygiene Certificate if her sausages meet the standards. 

Ms. Lan proactively met and discussed with the owner of the sausage production house who promised to buy all her sausages if it met their quality standards. Seeing her determination and the encouragement of the project staff and local authorities, her husband agreed with the plan. Together, they developed a detailed business plan, a loan borrow scheme with relatives and friends, decide when to go to Lao Cai for apprenticeship and where to buy machines, etc.

Lan and her husband are discussing the plan for testing sausage production.

When we visited her family in early August 2017, she was about to start apprenticeship. Lan also planned she would share her new knowledge with other women in the group to develop a promising business in her village. The joy in her eyes made us even more happy as we see the obvious changes in a rural woman who has become confident, creative and proactive in taking lead in household economic activities. It is important that she knows she has the right to expressing her dream and realizing it.  

The Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) project is funded by the Australian Government and implemented by a partnership of threeinternational non-governmental organisations - CARE International in Vietnam, Oxfam in Vietnam and SNV in Vietnam. WEAVE supports ethnic minority women’s economic empowerment in pork, cinnamon value chains in Lao Cai province and banana value chain in Bac Kan province. This will be achieved by promoting equality between women and men within households and producer groups, strengthening women and men producers’ skills and bargaining power, and working with business and government decision-makers to improve the policy environment to support producers.