Tea growers build school in Vietnam

In 2005, having decided to sell tea to increase their income the villagers of Nam Lanh, in north Vietnam, were able to improve their standard of living. Fairtrade has brought additional benefits that have enabled the villagers to improve their school.

11 January 2012

After travelling by motorbike for over an hour through mountains in the north of Vietnam, one finally arrives to a village of Dzao people, Nam Lanh in the region of Yen Bai.  It is March 2008, the air is chilly and the view and peace of the place leaves one breathless. The ancestors of the villagers have been populating the northern mountains of Vietnam for thousands of years. Though Vietnam shows signs of modernization everywhere, the village manages to preserve its lifestyle and customs. Men and women dress in the traditional black clothing of their ethnic group.

The villagers are subsistence farmers, traditionally scratching out a living from growing rice, herbs and rearing chickens.  The year 2005 brought new hope when the villagers started exporting wild tea for export to European markets through the Nam Khat Cooperative. Their aim is to increase their income to help them to stay on their land and in their villages, maintaining their traditional lifestyles.

Selling to the Fairtrade market

"While we have a limited production capacity and have only been selling small quantities of tea under Fairtrade terms, the Premium money we have received is still low. But this small amount is enabling us to carry out a 'big' project."

A small percentage of their tea is now being sold under Fairtrade terms and the community has started to receive a modest Fairtrade Premium. Mr Ban Thua Chieu, President of the tea cooperative in the Yen Bai region, explains that, "While we have a limited production capacity and have only been selling small quantities of tea under Fairtrade terms, the Premium money we have received is still low. But this small amount is enabling us to carry out a 'big' project." Mr Chieu and the villagers are constructing a concrete school structure for over 40 children in the village. 

Currently in the village there are two schools, a new one made out of concrete and an old wooden hut. With the Premium, the villagers of Nam Lanh will build a second concrete school which will not only improve the learning conditions for the children but help support the traditional fabric of the village. Parents are often away for many hours tending to their semi-wild crops in the mountains. Whilst away they want the assurance that their children are being taken care of and are secure.  

As the wild tea pickers in Yen Bai are enjoying the first benefits of Fairtrade, villagers are already planning a second project. As is evident even on a sunny dry day, the road that leads to the village needs improving. For this to happen they hope to find more buyers to buy their tea on Fairtrade terms.

"Every three months we meet at the village communal house to decide how to use the Fairtrade Premium. All villagers discuss their priorities together’" adds Mr Chieu.

 
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