Growing a Better Future in Viet Nam

Expanding rights, voices and choices for small-scale farmers

Published: 16 October 2012
Bert Maerten, Associate Country Director, Oxfam Hong Kong and Le Nguyet Minh, Associate Country Director, Oxfam America

Viet Nam has an enviable record of reducing hunger and poverty: over the past 20 years poverty levels have been reduced by more than half. 

Many people speak of an era of new opportunities and prosperity, yet the struggle to overcome poverty, and end hunger and gender injustice is not complete. With one in five Vietnamese currently live in poverty, in some ways it has become even more challenging.

As it becomes a middle-income country Viet Nam requires a fresh approach to its poverty reduction strategies in order to build a new future with prosperity for all. And, as the government looks at restructuring the agriculture sector, it is critical that poor and marginalized farmers are kept at the heart of the decision-making process to ensure that growth is sustainable, equitable and resilient. To realise its full potential Viet Nam must seize this opportunity for change and choose a form of development based on sustainability and social justice. It is critical that its people have a strong voice and that poverty reduction strategies are carefully considered and targeted to break the cycle of chronic poverty.

Growing a Better Future in Viet Nam: Expanding Rights, Voices and Choices for Small-scale Farmers highlights three fundamental challenges facing Viet Nam: sustainable production, equity and resilience. Overcoming these will be vital to making Viet Nam’s new prosperity a lasting reality for all.

Key recommendations

To grow a better future, Oxfam proposes five big shifts for policy makers in Viet Nam:

  1. End hunger and malnutrition, and confront the causes of food insecurity with renewed urgency and vigour: This will require changes to the food security strategy and delivery of social assistance programs. Innovations in social protection, such as direct cash transfers, should be introduced and scaled up, with a particular focus on food insecure households and ethnic minority communities.
  2. End all forms of exclusion: The ability for a people and nation to reflect and question itself about the various forms and causes of exclusion is one of the biggest challenges in creating a prosperous and just society. It is through this that ultimately the fight against poverty and injustice is won. Viet Nam should, in particular, consider the various forms of exclusion of ethnic minorities, women and migrant workers. This requires confronting all forms of discrimination and stigma, and giving voice to the voiceless.
  3. Increase public and private investment in small-scale farmers: This will increase the productivity, resilience, and sustainability of small-scale farmers and will require radical shifts away from the intensive high-input production models currently promoted. At least 10 per cent of public expenditure should go to agriculture, with small-scale farmers at the heart of the growth strategy. Ensure that agribusiness sectors adopt responsible investment policies and practices. Introduce adaptation strategies and agricultural development policies and frameworks that promote sustainable, resilient and inclusive agriculture. In particular, invest in improved and more effective early warning systems, disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation.
  4. Guarantee land rights: Land is an increasingly scarce and contested asset. Given its importance for poor people in terms of securing and improving livelihoods, making optimal use of land is critical for poverty reduction, development and social justice. Farmers need to have more stable property rights, with better protection and more voice in cases of land-use changes. Communities need to have a bigger role in land planning processes. Access to information and independent support is needed for poor farmers in considering land-use changes. The government needs to stop irresponsible and unjust land-use changes and guarantee fair processes for all.
  5. Support people’s initiatives, collaborative groups and voices: Mechanisms and space need to be promoted so that more groups emerge in which people can articulate their aspirations and claim their social and economic rights. Encourage cooperation between government, private sector and other actors within the society. In particular, the space for poor and vulnerable individuals and groups with common interests needs to be opened. Civil society can make large contributions in supporting policy making and monitoring implementation.


Related links

Take action: Join Oxfam's land grab campaign

More reports from the GROW Campaign, to ensure a future where we all have enough to eat, always

Oxfam's work in Viet Nam