The benefits of a series of years providing good cassava prices are clear to the eye of even the most casual observer. The quality of housing materials is improving, farm implements are plentiful, children are attending school and new motor cycles are appearing in farm yards. Ho Hoat, a farmer group leader of the Paco ethnic group says, “We tried mango and upland rice in the past but they were not successful. Cassava is already improving our lives and we hope we can make more money from learning these new methods and continue improving”.
The formation of farmer groups supported farmers in accessing new knowledge and new techniques on sustainable cassava production. Moreover, the members of groups have better access to the market information. It has also strengthened business links between farmers and cassava starch processing factories through contract farming. The key benefits of contract farming for farmers are improved access to local markets; assured markets and prices; and enhanced farmer access to production inputs (fertiliser, new varieties), transport services, and extension services. There were significant gains in awareness and knowledge about sustainable and intensive cassava production (e.g. new varieties cultivation, application of fertiliser, inter-cropping systems and soil erosion protection) and also in some crop management practices among the target farmers.
Income is one of the important indicators to measure the change in the well-being among households. The increase in household income was considerably different between the participant and non-participant groups. Generally, in comparison with non-participant households, incomes among project participants in Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue rapidly increased by 19.5%, 54.8% and 17.7% respectively. The increases in household income at the target sites was mainly attributed to cassava production. Cassava yields have increased on average by 20%. Secondly, cassava prices have been considerably higher since farmers groups signed contracts and directly sold their cassava to the factories. For example, the price of fresh cassava increased from around 1,200 VND/kg in 2008-2009 to 1,900 VND/kg in 2010-2011. Thirdly, transaction costs such as transportation, harvesting, carrying and loading have been considerably reduced thanks to the formation of farmers groups and the allocation of these tasks among group members and the factories.
Information from household surveys stated that over 70% of the participants in the target sites had registered an increase in their income. About 60% of them reported that women’s employment and incomes had increased in recent years. As a result, about 53% of the participants stated that the quality of life among local women had significantly improved. Similarly, over 50% of the survey households reported that the status of women, as well as their voice in family and society was stronger.
The project has been a win-win situation for the processor as well: throughout the project, the financial viability of cassava processing has increased; Mr Hieu’s factory is making a satisfactory profit, and he hopes he can raise production by 20% or more to bring it closer to the plant’s capacity. With demand for cassava starch from China, and domestic demand for bio-ethanol, the demand side of the business looks secure for the foreseeable future.