Poor? Restore!: How “H’mong apple and grass” changed lives

In Part 1, we heard of the vicious circle of poverty, environmental degradation and monocultural maize production leading to poor farmers beng unable to afford higher education for all their children. In Part 2, we learn how the introduction of a farming system that combined trees, crops, grasses and livestock changed lives for the better.

Sitting forlorn on the dirt floor of his hand-built, wooden house in Viet Nam’s remote Dien Bien Province, Giang Dung Vu, farmer and father of Giang Thi Hoa, his only daughter, explained how he learned how to improve his income and farming system thanks to training from World Agroforestry (ICRAF) using an wholistic systems’ approach to integrated solutions.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said, “but then the project taught me how to grow H’mong apple and fodder grass. It has been almost five years now.”

Grass yields, Vietnam.

The Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in Northwest Viet Nam, an agricultural development project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, tested ten different agroforestry systems with farmers in three provinces in the Northwest. Agroforestry is an agricultural system that blends trees, crops, livestock to optimize land use, environmental benefits and incomes. The ten systems all intercropped maize with fruit and nut trees and fodder grasses.

The project staff, all of whom were experts from Ha Noi and neighbouring universities and agricultural extension services, intensively trained nearly 1600 farmers and tripled farmers’ incomes compared to cultivation of monocultural maize.

“From the third year, I had income from the model H’mong apple and grass,” said Giang Dung Vu enthusiastically. “This year we sold all our H’mong apples and made VND 5 million [ed: about USD 220; an astronomical amount compared to the farm’s usual income]. Further, we have enough grass for three cows and three buffalo.”

Mua Thi Va, Hoa’s mother, reminded him of what they used the first income for.

“Dear, we also had enough money to pay for Hoa to go to Ha Noi,” she said, which meant that 21 year-old Hoa’s dream to study at university was able to come true.

Dreams come true: the benefits of agroforestry

Join Episode 3 to find out what a university education meant for Hoa and her family…