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Climate change versus green beans in Vietnam's mountains

Source: CARE International - UK - Fri, 28 Mar 2014 08:33 GMT
Author: CARE International
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Vu Thi Ngoc shows off her banana plantation in Pa Lai, northern Vietnam. CARE/Jørgen Petersen
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Life has always been tough for the villagers of Pa Lai, high in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Here, in the country’s remote uplands, the people of the ethnic Tay minority have often struggled to make ends meet.

Smallholder farmer, Vu Thi Ngoc, 50, knows just how hard it can be to make a living from the land. As one of the poorest women in the Thanh Van commune, she has always found it difficult to put food on the table. “Ever since I had my first child, it was very hard to survive,” she says.

In recent years, Vu Thi Ngoc hasn’t even had much help with farming, though she and her husband do what they can. Thanh Van commune is so far from the nearest schools that all three of her daughters left home at the age of 14 to pursue their studies.

The odds have been stacked against Vu Thi Ngoc. But now, she’s got something new and unexpected to contend with: the increasingly strange and unpredictable climate.

“I used to plant my green beans in July,” Vu Thi Ngoc explains, “but now it is too hot [and they die].”

In fact, when she thinks back over the past six or seven years, Vu Thi Ngoc says there have been other noticeable changes too. It rains more in the summer than it used to, there is more fog in the winter, and the land seems to freeze more frequently than before.

As the impacts of climate change worsen, the unusual weather patterns Vu Thi Ngoc reports are taking their toll on people’s lives and livelihoods. And, because the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the least resources to cope with major shocks and stresses, they are also being hit the hardest.

FOOD SURPLUS

That’s why CARE is helping people like Vu Thi Ngoc to deal with this new, and largely unfamiliar, climate threat. Working alongside CARE’s Vietnamese partner organisation, the Agriculture and Forestry Research and Development Center for the Northern Mountainous Region, Vu Thi Ngoc and her neighbours have been learning how to adapt their farming skills to the changing climate.

The results have been promising. Not only has Vu Thi Ngoc started using fertilisers and growing different plant varieties that make far better use of her land, her new knowledge and techniques have also resulted in a surplus of food. Now, she makes sure her fields are never empty by planting rice twice a year along with an annual crop of potatoes.

And, whereas before Vu Thi Ngoc had a few banana palms growing in her backyard, now she has fields of them – and their bananas – which she is able to sell to others in the commune. Alongside the trees she grows for timber on the same plot of land, she’s able to make more of an income. “Now we can do everything by ourselves,” Vu Thi Ngoc says.

In spite of the challenges of the changing climate, the future is looking brighter for Vu Thi Ngoc and her family. Thanks to her efforts, she has saved enough money to start building a new concrete house to replace the wooden home she built with her husband 20 years ago.

And, for the first time, the long chain of farmers in the family is about to be broken. Vu Thi Ngoc’s two eldest daughters have started university - with her third daughter likely to follow in their footsteps.

So, what about Vu Thi Ngoc? Does she have any plans to retire? She laughs and shakes her head. She is a farmer and she will simply keep working until she can’t go on.

Now Vu Thi Ngoc knows about how to deal with and adapt to the climate challenges she faces, she can continue farming and earning a living. She’s even found a way to grow her favourite crop.

“Now, I plant my green beans in February,” she says.

Original interview conducted by Joergen Petersen on behalf of CARE Denmark: www.careclimatechange.org

Life has always been tough for the villagers of Pa Lai, high in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. Here, in the country’s remote uplands, the people of the ethnic Tay minority have often struggled to make ends meet.

 

Smallholder farmer, Vu Thi Ngoc, 50, knows just how hard it can be to make a living from the land. As one of the poorest women in the Thanh Van commune, she has always found it difficult to put food on the table. “Ever since I had my first child, it was very hard to survive,” she says.

 

In recent years, Vu Thi Ngoc hasn’t even had much help with farming, though she and her husband do what they can. Thanh Van commune is so far from the nearest schools that all three of her daughters left home at the age of 14 to pursue their studies.

 

The odds have been stacked against Vu Thi Ngoc. But now, she’s got something new and unexpected to contend with: the increasingly strange and unpredictable climate.

 

“I used to plant my green beans in July,” Vu Thi Ngoc explains, “but now it is too hot [and they die].”

 

In fact, when she thinks back over the past six or seven years, Vu Thi Ngoc says there have been other noticeable changes too. It rains more in the summer than it used to, there is more fog in the winter, and the land seems to freeze more frequently than before.

 

As the impacts of climate change worsen, the unusual weather patterns Vu Thi Ngoc reports are taking their toll on people’s lives and livelihoods. And, because the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the least resources to cope with major shocks and stresses, they are also being hit the hardest.

 

That’s why CARE is helping people like Vu Thi Ngoc to deal with this new, and largely unfamiliar, climate threat. Working alongside CARE’s Vietnamese partner organisation, the Agriculture and Forestry Research and Development Center for the Northern Mountainous Region, Vu Thi Ngoc and her neighbours have been learning how to adapt their farming skills to the changing climate.

 

The results have been promising. Not only has Vu Thi Ngoc started using fertilisers and growing different plant varieties that make far better use of her land, her new knowledge and techniques have also resulted in a surplus of food. Now, she makes sure her fields are never empty by planting rice twice a year along with an annual crop of potatoes.

 

And, whereas before Vu Thi Ngoc had a few banana palms growing in her backyard, now she has fields of them – and their bananas – which she is able to sell to others in the commune. Alongside the trees she grows for timber on the same plot of land, she’s able to make more of an income. “Now we can do everything by ourselves,” Vu Thi Ngoc says.

 

 

In spite of the challenges of the changing climate, the future is looking brighter for Vu Thi Ngoc and her family. Thanks to her efforts, she has saved enough money to start building a new concrete house to replace the wooden home she built with her husband 20 years ago.

 

And, for the first time, the long chain of farmers in the family is about to be broken. Vu Thi Ngoc’s two eldest daughters have started university - with her third daughter likely to follow in their footsteps.

 

So, what about Vu Thi Ngoc? Does she have any plans to retire? She laughs and shakes her head. She is a farmer and she will simply keep working until she can’t go on.

 

Now Vu Thi Ngoc knows about how to deal with and adapt to the climate challenges she faces, she can continue farming and earning a living. She’s even found a way to grow her favourite crop.

 

“Now, I plant my green beans in February,” she says.

 

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Original interview conducted by Joergen Petersen on behalf of CARE Denmark: www.careclimatechange.org

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