In the final conclusion of the exchange visit from 21st to 28th November, the Vietnamese delegation stated the importance of a future collaboration with Agriterra and the pioneering experience and knowledge that was gained during the week. In general, the exchange week focused on Cooperative development and technology, access to finance for cooperatives and land consolidation.
Each day was dedicated to target a specific field of the Vietnam Cooperative Development Plan, which was part of Agriterra’s achievements in 2017, next to the launch of the cooperative network NETCOOP. The Cooperative Development Plan has been endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, various Provincial Peoples Committees and the Dutch Embassy in Vietnam and is supported by many international organisations.
Agriculture is the backbone of the Vietnamese economy employing around 60% of the workforce and accounting for 17% of GDP. This means that an average farmer earns less than half of the average income per capita in Vietnam. The challenge is to integrate farmers and their produce into the agricultural value chain so that they benefit more equally to other chain partners. Agricultural cooperatives can and should play a major role in tackling this challenge as we have seen in other countries (i.e. the Netherlands and South Korea). Currently, only 45% of all cooperatives are considered effective in Vietnam.
This is where Agriterra’s work can begin to transform the sector. Regarding the Cooperative Development plan, five ‘focus areas’ have been identified, namely trust, management and business planning, market linkage, finance: access and control and technology. Agriterra, with the support of the consortia, will start working in four regions with selected cooperatives and to immediately scale up after the first successes, eventually covering the whole country.
In the final conclusion on Monday, 27th of November it was generally agreed by the Vietnamese delegation that they would like to collaborate with Agriterra and receive advice and help, which will also contribute to a good future for the people. The aim is now to prepare legislation changes and implement a new cooperative law. Moreover, restructuring the agricultural production in regional areas and presenting a cooperative model, how farmers should organise to upscale their farms, will improve of the agricultural sector as well.
The Vietnamese government wants to support Agriterra in building the cooperative model, which will be meaningful for Vietnam and provide a role model for each key commodity of the region. Regarding the successful and developed situation of cooperatives in the Netherlands, which where visited during the exchange, the delegation wants advice from Agriterra to improve the situation of cooperatives in Vietnam and furthermore, to revise the current cooperative law.
Land consolidation will be an important topic of the future collaboration as well. While in the Netherlands farmers have many hectare, Vietnamese farmers only have little plots. Another goal will be Agriterra’s motto, ‘to make cooperatives bankable’ and therefore less dependent on banks and more interesting for investors. The minister of investment and planning adds that he was most impressed by the autonomous cooperatives in the Netherlands and how their members bring capital to the cooperatives was an eye opener.
One of the participants also found that there are similarities between the Netherlands and Vietnam, such as the high population in rural arears and high employment in the agricultural field. One of the greatest differences however, summarises a participant, are that Netherlands don’t have a lot of people employed in the agricultural sector, while the quality is very high and in Vietnam it is the other way round.