Rural families ‘left to suffer’

VietNamNet Bridge – Rural households across the country that have suffered from shocks such as natural disasters and outbreaks of disease haven’t received all the support they deserve, according to the findings of a survey that were released June 27.

Farmers in Vi Thuy District in Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang salvage their rice crop after being hit by a flood. More support policies and programmes are urged for rural farmers to help them deal with shocks including natural disasters.Farmers in Vi Thuy District in Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang salvage their rice crop after being hit by a flood. More support policies and programmes are urged for rural farmers to help them deal with shocks including natural disasters.

Carried out by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development over a six-year period, the survey highlights one of the greatest challenges facing rural households.

About 50 per cent of nearly 3,000 surveyed households said they had suffered at least one natural disaster or epidemic each year, according to Tran Thi Thanh Nhan, an expert from the institute.

Nhan said Viet Nam is among the top 10 countries that are mostly affected by natural disasters. Annual damage, mainly to crops and livestock caused by natural disasters across the country is estimated to make up 1 per cent of GDP, directly affecting 9,000 people.

The poorer they are, the less chances they have for a successful recovery, she said.

Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, director of the institute’s Centre of Agricultural Policy (CAP), said rural households have small savings of about VND5-8 million (US$238-380) per year, making up 10-15 per cent of their total income. So, it is difficult for them to cope with these shocks.

They have to sell all their assets, withdraw their savings and borrow money from relatives and friends, he said.

The country’s support policies and programmes don’t pay enough attention to helping farmers deal with shocks such as natural disasters. Support from the State meets only 10 per cent of necessary resources for rural households to recover from shocks, said Tuan.

Nhan said insurance, especially agricultural insurance, was not taken out by most rural households, with less than 1 per cent of those surveyed saying they had signed up for insurance.

Nguyen Duy Luong, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Farmers’ Association, said farmers are the most vulnerable to shocks caused by natural disasters and epidemics.

Experts said more direct support for rural households was necessary in dealing with natural disasters and health issues.

An early warning system on natural disasters would also help minimise their losses, she said.

In addition, agricultural insurances in co-ordination with community-based funds should be developed, she said.

According to the survey, rural households themselves also find alternative ways to earn their living, instead of focusing exclusively on agricultural production.

The main income of surveyed households in Phu Tho, Nghe An, Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa and Long An provinces was from non-agricultural activities such as trading or transport. Nearly 60 per cent of households saw their incomes increase by more than 20 per cent between 2006-12.

However, according to survey respondents, a lack of capital, market accessibility and labour skills were the main constraints to the development of non-agricultural businesses.

Luong said the survey will be discussed at a meeting of the National Congress of the Viet Nam Farmers’ Association next week, which aims to find solutions to improving rural people’s lives and agriculture productivity.

Source: VNS

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