4 min.

Community engagement a key to success in livestock systems transformation project in Northwest Vietnam

In the misty rural highlands in Northwest Vietnam, Li-chan means ‘beautiful’ or ‘true’ in the local Thai dialect. It is also the short form name of the systems-focused priority country program in Vietnam – ‘Livestock-led interventions towards equitable livelihoods and improved environment in the Northwest of Vietnam’ – implemented by partners of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock (Livestock CRP).

Under the Li-chan program, researchers are looking at ways to stimulate system transformation –livelihoods, environment, equity, and market access – to sustainably raise the income generation potential of highland farming communities, through a customized bundle of livestock-based interventions in Son La Province, Northwest Vietnam.

Local farmers meet the Li-Chan research team in the community house in Oi Village, Chieng Luong Commune, Son La Province in Vietnam. Photo Chi Nguyen/ILRI

“We decided early on that we would adopt a participatory approach, which we felt was critical if we were to be successful,” explains Sabine Douxchamps, of Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, leader of the priority country program in Vietnam.

“Consultations with partners and target farmers in the last 12 months has allowed us to refine our knowledge of the systems, and helped us identify the constraints and opportunities for research and development in livestock within the targeted communities.”

By September this year, the research team were ready to present to the communes of Chieng Chung and Chieng Luong the planned interventions and the five areas of focus of the program.

Researchers included staff of the Sub-department of Animal Health of Son La, the National Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), the National Institute of Veterinary Research (NIVR), the Alliance Bioversity-CIAT, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Attending the meetings were village leaders, community members and targeted farmers.

Engaging with the communities 

The overall aim of the meetings was to present and collectively discuss the objectives, methods and proposed activities of the project. Participants were encouraged to share their feedback and views on the planned intervention packages and to reflect on how these aligned with their own priorities.

The five specialized components of the Li-chan project, which are complementary and feed into each other, were introduced at the meeting:

  • The genetics component is designed to provide training on animal genetics for livestock producers and technical support on artificial insemination in pigs and cattle within the local community.
  • The animal health component targets both farmers and animal health professionals, training them in biosecurity and disinfection best practices, and guiding farmers on how to control and prevent animal diseases.
  • The feeds and forages component aims to raise the capacity of farmers to better feed their animals, helping them to identify bottlenecks in the supply of feeds and identify potential alternative feeds.
  • The environment component focuses on the sustainability elements of the project interventions, measuring their impacts on the environment and on nutrient management. Activities in this component include training the local community to understand and mitigate environmental outcomes, such as erosion and soil fertility decline.
  • The final component aims to improve the livelihoods of livestock farmers through strengthening market access and value chains, and developing specialized high-value products.

 

A local farmer and her cattle in Mai Son District, Son La Province. Photo ILRI

Researchers and participants, especially the local farmers, jointly agreed upon a schedule of project capacity development activities, which will start October 2020 and run till July 2021. In addition, to ensure that the Li-chan project addresses community needs, it was agreed that further surveys on market linkages and feeds and forages will be held in the two communes before finalization of the Li-chan intervention plan.

The meetings generated local media interest. During a TV interview, deputy director of the Agricultural Services Centre of Mai Son District, Nguyen Van Cuong, expressed his support for the project, saying, ‘Development projects, such as Li-chan, that provide capacity development on breeding and forages at the grassroots level will lead to real impact and promote efficiency across the local community.’

Watch the full TV interview here.

Li-chan is one of four priority country programs under the Livestock CRP that will run for two and half years (2019-2021) and is coordinated by the the Alliance Bioversity-CIAT and ILRI, in partnership with Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), NIAS, NIVR, Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMAFSI), Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Son La Province, Mai Son Agriculture Division, Mai Son Agriculture Service Center.