In the first week of February 2018, SNV’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Meike van Ginneken, made her first country visit to Vietnam. During her time in Vietnam, Meike visited four project sites, two women’s economic empowerment in agriculture projects and a biogas and clean cookstove project, and interacted with key partners and provincial leaders in the field.

Meike started with a visit to two women’s economic empowerment in agriculture projects. In Nam Det commune in Lao Cai province in the north of Vietnam, Meike attended a household dialogues session among ethnic minority cinnamon farmers. During the household dialogue session, couples reflect on key gender norms and challenges in their households, like gendered division of labour, decision-making power and leadership. The household dialogues are implemented under the ‘Women's Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement’ (WEAVE) project, funded by the Australian Government, to accelerate economic empowerment of ethnic minority women in the cinnamon value chain in the north of Vietnam. In Quang Binh province, Meike learned how SNV is boosting women’s entrepreneurship under the ‘Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises’ (EOWE) programme, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. She visited Quy Hau agriculture cooperative that is supported by SNV in the gender-responsive application of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an advanced farming techniques to reduce inputs and emissions while increasing yield and climate change adaptation. Through a combination of technical support, addressing gender norms and the promotion of women leadership, the intervention increases empowerment of women farmers in the rice value chain.

The local rice farmers warmly welcomed the delegation, which next to Meike consisted of Ms. Alison Rusinow (Country Director, SNV Vietnam), Ms. Tran Tu Anh (FLOW/WEAVE Programme Manager, SNV Vietnam) and programme staff. The female farmers explained that they observe significant changes in their families and local communities while being a part of the EOWE project. At Quy Hau Cooperative, many farmer groups led by women have been successful in applying SRI in rice production and observed changes in awareness and behaviour among family members in division of labour and decision-making in households. At Bac Tien Clean Mushroom Cooperative, Meike had the opportunity to meet the female leader of the social enterprise in Hien Ninh commune that provides livelihood opportunities for disadvantaged people and low-income women in the neighbourhood.

Meike visiting cinnamon farmers in Lao Cai province

Bac Tien Mushroom Cooperative supports the disadvantaged in Quang Binh province

Back in Hanoi, Mr. Tom Derksen (SNV Managing Director – Energy) and Mr. Bastiaan Teune (Sector Leader Energy, SNV Vietnam) joined Meike during a visit to two biogas users in Co Giang village, Gia Lam district, Hanoi. One farmer raises pigs and runs a 1000m2 pomelo garden and another farmer has a 500m2 fishpond and also raises pigs. With support of the Vietnam Biogas Programme, the farmers were able to construct a biogas digester. The biogas is being used as fuel for pig food preparation and bio-slurry as fertiliser for gardening or as food for fish. The farmers shared that they could save 20kg of fuelwood per day and 2 hours in time since they use biogas at their farm. Mr. Viet, the farmer who owns the fish pond explains that the use of bio-slurry as food for his fish, helped him saving 50% of the costs for industrial food while increasing his yield.

After her visit to the biogas users, Ms. Meike visited the Back Khoa – Biomass Emission Lab (BK-BEL) at the School of Heat and Refrigeration (SHEER) at Hanoi University of Science and Technology. SNV recently invested in infrastructure and installed a PEM (Portable Emission Measurement system) for cookstove testing in the lab. After the visit, Meike witnessed the signing of a MoU between SNV (represented by Ms. Alison Rusinow, Country Director of SNV Vietnam) and SHEER (represented by Mr. Le Duc Dung, vice Dean of SHEER) to hand over the Lab to SHEER for management and operation from 2018 onwards, with the aim that SHEER can commercialise the testing service to support a sustainable stove market in the near future. At the same day, the delegation met four cookstove producers that joined the ‘Market Acceleration of Advanced Clean Cookstoves in the Greater Mekong Sub-region’ project since 2016, including Tien Manh, Greengen, CCBM and Solar Serve. During the visit, the producers shared the challenges and opportunities that they faced in the last two years since joining program, and how SNV could support them to achieve stronger cooperation in the near future.

Meike, Tom and Bastiaan at Greengen clean cookstove company

Witnessing the benefits of a biogas digester at a local farm

During the whole week, the SNV delegation had the opportunity to meet provincial leaders and key provincial partners of SNV, including the Provincial Department of Agricultural & Rural development, Department of Industry & Trade, and provincial Women’s Union. The provincial government leaders warmly welcomed the delegation and showed high appreciation for the long-term effective bilateral cooperation between SNV and the different provinces and SNV. Meike expressed her gratitude for the warm welcome and the commitment and strong cooperation of the local authorities, which significantly contributes to the success of SNV’s programmes. Her first country visit has brought many lessons learnt to enrich the impact of SNV programmes, and to further enhance collaboration between SNV and local partners.