An important milestone was reached this fall: Roots of Peace added a new crop to its repertoire of tools for assisting Vietnamese farming families in their pursuit for sustainable livelihoods free of poverty.
Taro is a tuberous, perennial root vegetable that is used as a staple food source in much of South and South East Asia. Roots of Peace launched a test-project in 2014 to explore the possibility of using advanced crop-treatment and agricultural techniques to minimize the occurrence of disease and pest damage in taro plants. This project involved applying instructions from our Technical Expert, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Binh, in order to successfully grow and harvest Taro in relatively unfertile land. After observing the impressive results of the pilot in mid 2015, it was concluded that pressing ahead with the taro project was worthwhile.
Fast-forward to September, and the establishment of the first exclusively Taro-based club in Vinh Thai commune, Vinh Linh District is well underway. The launch ceremony took place on September 22 and involved explaining the details of the project to a group of about 60 male and female farmers from the surrounding area, who registered for inclusion in the project. After reviewing their applications, it is expected that ROP will have 32 farmers in this first club. The experience and insights gained from working with this primary club will serve as the basis for future taro-based projects across the region.
Taro, a staple food source of central Vietnam, is an important crop for two main reasons. The first is that it is a basic food source that can serve as safety net during times of hardship. The second is that with the right materials and levels of care, it is a relatively resilient and easy plant to grow; it is one of a few crops found in the region that is able to flourish in highly degraded, infertile and sandy land. Which is exactly what most of Vinh Thai commune – the poorest of all communes in Vinh Linh District, Quang Tri – is made up of.
To get an idea of how poor Vinh Thai is, the numbers speak for themselves: 37% of households have annual incomes of less than $278, while 12.3% of all households have incomes of $130 or less, which is well below the $220 per month national marker for poverty set by the Vietnamese government.
Unlike some neighbouring communes, the land in Vinh Thai is not conducive to strong crop growth as it generally lacks nutrients and is very sandy. This leaves only a few areas that can be used for agriculture, however pests and disease continue to be a major obstacle to productive growth. Surface mining for Titanium in the area has also left a lot of the soil even further degraded and unproductive.
Women farmers are particularly underprivileged in Vinh Thai, with many facing chronic joblessness due to a lack of viable options for agricultural work.