As part of Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) in Vietnam, and following on from the first two phases of market analysis and development (MA&D) training in January and June, the Vietnam Farmer Union (VNFU) organized a phase 3 training in Hanoi for 24 farmers and local facilitators in Hanoi on August 13-17.
This phase is when forest and farm producers organizations (FFPOs) have to prepare a detailed enterprise development plan based on market survey data collected in phase 2. Because of limited time and experience, few FFPOs were able to fully explore product value chains or processing technologies or markets as the basis of their business plans.
To help fill this knowledge gap, VNFU invited two specialists in timber and non-timber product processing from Vietnam Academy of Forest Sciences to the training. They provided the latest information on household-scale processing technologies and the contact details of private companies that buy forest products directly from farmers rather than through traders. In a competitive business environment, this information, which is normally unavailable to smallholder farmers in remote areas, is a key to making a profit.
Farmers also asked scientists for solutions to pests such as the Mo sawfly (Shizocera spp.), which attacks the Mo tree (Manglietia coniferaor), why 60% of their star anise trees fail to bear fruit, or whether star anise oil should be made from the tree leaves or fruits. The scientists recommended several medicinal plants that grow under the forest canopy, earning additional income and allowing farmers to lengthen their timber rotations.
This training reduces the risk of FFPOs jumping into a business without fully understanding the implications of the choice of tree species, processing, and markets. “Thanks to the presenters, I realize that our group isn't ready to open a wood veneer workshop at the moment because we can't afford a VND300 million lathe. Instead, we can plant, an indigenous ginger plant (Amomum villosum) and earn more”, said Mrs. Hoang Thi Mai, a farmer in Bac Kan.
Bridging the information gap between FFPOs and scientists is an important objective of FFF in Vietnam, which is led by VNFU with support from FAO, IIED, and IUCN. This will strengthen the capacity of FFPOs to invest wisely in sustainable forest and farm production and market integration. FFF will also support regular dialogues to get the voices of FFPOs heard at national and international levels and to improve the policy environment.