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Country Workshop in Vietnam highlights role of SE and IB in Transforming Lives of Women and Men Small Producers in AVCs

Organized by Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP), the Country Workshop dubbed as “The Role of Social Enterprises and Inclusive Business in Agricultural Value Chains (AVCs) and Gender Analysis,” highlighted the role of social enterprises and inclusive businesses in transforming lives of women and men small scale producers in agricultural value chain in Vietnam last September 21, 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The workshop brought together over 50 representatives from social enterprises, business, civil society organizations and government to talked about the role of social enterprise (SE) and inclusive business (IB) in agriculture and various value chains as it relate to the transformation of the lives women and men small producers in Vietnam. The workshop started with the presentation of the rapid appraisal result, followed by the case presentation of HITEACO and DRAGON and the presentation of the benchmarks.   

The rapid appraisal was able highlight that despite the decline in the contribution to GDP of agriculture, forestry and fishery, these sector remains important for sustainable development of Vietnam. Vietnam’s agricultural sector also is driven by restructuring towards high value added, quality and competitiveness. The rapid appraisal also showed that despite having an official status for “Social Enterprises” in Vietnam through the newly-revised Enterprise Law 2015, considered to be a milestone in social enterprises development in the country but there was no preferential policy designed specifically for social enterprises. Looking at gender equality and economic empowerment, the rapid appraisal showed that almost all of the SEAVC studied do not have clear statement on gender or specific strategy towards addressing gender issues.  Of the 65 SEAVCs, only 2 have conscious gender and development program. The key contribution of SEAVCs initiative to gender equality is towards its significant role in creating jobs, increasing incomes for households and improvement of knowledge and skills in production or business skills for women. There was no conscious intervention on changing the power relations of women and men producers. 

The case presentations of the HITEACO and DRAGON were able to provide the participants with examples of inclusive business wanting to do more in the transformation of the lives of its women and men small-scale producers. Ms. Nguyen Thu Ha, Director of the Dragon Vietnam Investment Company shared how their company which trades and produce tea and dried fruits in the Northwest of Vietnam works with 1,000 poor women and men ethnic smallholders through contract farming in Northwest Vietnam as well as their plan to open up ownership to the public and even to their partner small producers. Mr. Le Van Son, researcher of CSIP also presented the case of Dragon Vietnam Investment LLC (DRAGON) as it develops its linkages with 2,000 poor smallholders in the mountainous regions in the North of Vietnam to produce gingers and gac. 

Dr. Marie Lisa Dacanay, President of ISEA presented the benchmarks for transformational partnerships from the South East Asian perspectives. These includes: a) promote appropriate technology and community-based/ oriented innovations that are friendly to small producers and women; b) progressively position women and men small producers to reap greater benefits from their engagement in value chain development over time; c) pave the way for the empowerment of women and men small producers to become actors in their own development and that of their community and sector; d) Provide a combination of transactional and transformational services among women and men small producers to more effectively participate in value chain and community/sectoral development; and, e) put a premium on value chains and value chain development practices that increase the capacity of women to substantively raise household incomes, enhance their control over resources and decisions and improve their position in their households and community.

The discussion that followed reflected on the different engagement models present in Vietnam. It was able to successfully promote the role of SEs and IBs in agriculture value chains to different NGOs and government agencies while differentiating the livelihood model that is most prevalent in the country. The workshop also able to raise awareness and identify several policies that needs to be worked on within the social enterprise sector, the civil society and government to provide more space and favorable policy environment for growth and maturity of social enterprises in agricultural value chains in Vietnam. This country workshop is the first in the series of workshops in the 4 countries where the project called “Promoting the Role of Social Enterprises (PROSE)” in “Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia (GRAISEA)” was being implemented. Led by Oxfam with funding support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), PROSE-GRAISEA aims to benefit women and men small-scale producers, including agricultural workers, in Southeast Asia via the adoption of gendered benchmarks for transformational partnerships in agricultural value chains, by social enterprises themselves, and governments at the national and ASEAN levels.