Updated by Governance team in September 27, 2012
An Giang province is one of the most significant agricultural centres in Vietnam and is the leading area in production of rice. The recent visit from VietSurvey’s research team with intention of interviewing the local rice farmers who supposed to be rice net sellers, has provided them with considerable amount of insight into the farmer’s current situation, daily activities and life. The interviews have revealed the farmers struggles in their efforts to adapt to the changing conditions of the market, economy environment or other important factors. These conditions were proven to be unfavourable for most of the farmers, as they created unfamiliarity and additional expenses for adjustments to those changes. This further limited the already small number of opportunities for farmers’ betterment and growth. There were primarily four ways that the farmers have generally taken in their efforts at development and improvement of their lives: to continue without changes, to sell their lands and work for others rich owner, to get employed or to become a landlord.
The first and probablythe easiest way the farmers have utilised, was to continue with the subsistence farming. Up to 30% of the farmers in the province have not sought to change their way of life and proceeded to cultivate rice in the same manner they did before. Despite being the simplest and least risky, this approach was said to possess some serious drawbacks to it. The farmers claimed that their situation was getting worse and worse with time. Their monetary, time and labour input and investments were stated to continuously increase over time, such as the crops, fertilisers or fuel prices rose; while the output and their incomes tended to fluctuate, due to the volatility of market prices. The participants also stated that they constantly needed external monetary support and that they were under near constant debt, claimed to be due to high and rising credit ratings. The instability of their income only added more problems to their already difficult monetary situation. Additional problems and possible expenses relating to general health, soil quality and similar factorsalso did not help their case
The second way that some of the farmers have adapted is to sell their lands and to become seasonal field worker. A fraction of farmers have stated to be a part of the labour force employed by a landlord or an organisation. They earned wages for the contributions, farm and labour work they had done. The industrialization process, however, makes the much of the labour force redundant, as much of the manual labour is replaced with, potentially, more efficient equipment and machines.
The third widely adapted approach by the farmers was to seek employment in a variety of establishments and organisations, such as factories in Ho Chi Minh city, Binh Duong or Dong Nai where factories and industries cluster. People that have gone this way, claimed to enjoy relatively stable incomes, but poor living conditions both in terms of healthcare and family support. Despite this, they stated that the earnings were just enough to live and after all the necessary expenses many were left with no spare cash. This limited the betterment and possibilities of further growth and development for some. They also depended on their job progression within the establishments that they worked for, to get increase wages and better organisational perks. Their lower skill pools and education did not help their case either.The work done was stated to be monotonous and labour intensive, as well as the workers had to work from morning till late evening, leaving them little time for family and other activities.
The last and possibly the most desired way, was to become a landlord. It is the most ambitious and risky way, but it granted many benefits to successful farmers. There were only few such cases observed in the whole An Giang province (out of 4000 famers, only 4 managed to achieve such status, 3 of which were not located within the village researched).Many have tried to go down this road, mostly did not succeed and ended up adapting one of the latter ways. These farmers were described to be very wealthy and to possess up to 70 ha of land, many opportunities and possibilities for future growth and development, as well as to have better connections to the various markets and buyers. All of the successful farmers werefound out to have experience within the banking industry.This enabled them to effectively manage their inflow, outflow and utilisation of resources and efficiently develop and improve their economic situation. Slowly these farmers have accumulated the wealth and prosperity they currently possess.
The choice between the approaches to adapt, have caused a major dilemma for the farmers. As their futures are at stake, what roads should the go down? Should they take a leap of faith or should the play it safe? Are there any other options?
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