Ma Thi Huong is standing outside her house with scolding tea which she made from leaves picked straight from her own garden. Unlike many homes in her Southern Vietnamese village, Ma’s house is built from bricks and mortar.
Inside, the house is spotless, and has a few simple luxuries that her neighbours do not: a heater; a small television; a separate room for them to sleep.
Behind Ma’s new home is a flimsy bamboo and wood construction, which was the families’ former house. Next to it is a pig pen which houses the reason for her incredible change.
Previously, Ma relied on a single sow for most of her income. She had little knowledge or training in animal raising and little confidence to seek more information. However, all that changed when she became part of the CARE Economic Collaboration for Development project.
The project targets the rural poor in the area, giving them new training and technology to help improve their income opportunities. Ma, part of an ethnic minority group that is one of the most vulnerable in the region, was selected to learn more about sow (pig) raising. This had been her only source of income for many years; however she had never received any formal training or information to help her to be more effective.
“We were provided with animal raising skills and I participated because I thought I needed the technique to raise pigs better,” she says.
“Now, I have more knowledge about medicine and I can apply this knowledge to prevent diseases in my animals. My animals have less disease than before. Previously when I raise a pig without the techniques it used to take sixty days to get the pigs to ten kilograms, but now with 60 days the pigs can get 15 kilograms. This is more cost effective and my household income has also increased.”
It may sound simple enough, but as Ma explains, this basic training has enabled her and her family to not only enjoy a higher income, but also a safer and healthier future.
“The money from pig selling has contributed to this house. It is not much but compared to other farmers I think it is good,” she says modestly. “With the new house we are all very happy and we are healthy. It is a good change!”
Not only has the project helped Ma build a better life for her family, it has also given her a huge amount of confidence and respect within her community.
“Before, I had little contact with other people because my communication skills were not so good. I could think in my head but could not express my thoughts, especially in front of a crowd. But after participating in the project my voice has increased. I am more confident and I have little hesitation.”
Ma hasn’t just been able to lift her own family out of poverty, she’s also passing on what she’s learnt to others in the community as one of two women in her village elected to become trainers.
“I am very happy to participate in the project and transfer the techniques to other people,” says Ma. “I could see the community has very little knowledge and understanding, they don’t even know the name of the medicine to treat their animals. But with the techniques and information I teach I can help them to save money and now people know how to prevent disease in their animals.”