Vietnam's poverty program failing to address basic needs: Oxfam

Thanh Nien News

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Poor locals in the northern highlands province of Cao Bang receive cows under a poverty alleviation program coded 30A. Photo credit: Cao Bang Newspaper Poor locals in the northern highlands province of Cao Bang receive cows under a poverty alleviation program coded 30A. Photo credit: Cao Bang Newspaper


A program designed to create fast and sustainable poverty alleviation in Vietnam’s 64 poorest districts has seen little success after five years, an Oxfam survey found.
The state-funded program, coded 30A, failed to address the needs of the poor, according to the results of an independent survey conducted between 2012 and 2013 by Oxfam in three randomly-selected districts.
Oxfam conducted their research in Si Ma Cai district in the northern Lao Cai Province, Tuong Duong in Nghe An Province and Ba To in Quang Ngai Province.
On Thursday, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon quoted Nguyen Le Hoa, acting director of Oxfam Vietnam, as saying that the priorities set by the program did not match local needs.
For example, like most other poverty alleviation programs in Vietnam, 30A spent 75-80 percent of its budget on infrastructure development.
Meanwhile, the beneficiaries' biggest concern, clean water access, received the least amount of resources between 2009 and 2011, and during the plan for this year.
The Vietnamese government spent more than US$400 million on the program between 2009 and 2011 (roughly $2 million per district per year) in addition to donations from state firms.
Oxfam surveyed 1,440 families and government officials.
The program aimed to reduce the agricultural workforce to below 60 percent of the local communities by 2015 but Oxfam found the rate in the three surveyed districts has remained at 80 percent since the program began in 2009.
Five major branches of the program – forest protection, labor export, vocational training, rice aid and loan support – were highly criticized.
The forest protection program, for example, was deemed a failure.
Under the program, families were to receive land including protected forest to manage for a payment of VND200,000 ($9.40) per hectare per year. Participating families were also given seeds and other materials to plant trees on non-forested parts of the land and keep all their harvests. 
Communes in Tuong Duong District reported between zero and 4 percent of their households signed up for the program's forest protection program; some communes reported none. 
Meanwhile, the "labor export" program was supposed to export 7,500-8,000 laborers, or an average of ten per commune.
Only Tuong Duong District, in Nghe An, may achieve that goal; in the other two districts, only a few people per commune volunteered to work overseas--many communes reported no interest in the project.
Only 2 percent of the families in Tuong Duong and Ba To Districts reported having access to cheap loans.
Hoa said she’s concerned about the goals as well as the impact of the program.
“We want to contribute an independent voice to help poverty alleviation programs be more effective and stay true to the goal of providing sustainable livelihoods for the poor.”
She said the survey suggests that poverty programs should “reconsider their priorities and guarantee that their budgets are invested in programs that address local needs.”

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