homelessness in vietnamWhile the nation of Vietnam has long struggled with poverty, homelessness in Vietnam has been successfully reduced by the government during a period of five years ranging from 2003 to 2008. These efforts have reduced the number of street children by 62%. This accomplishment is partly due to the fact that Vietnam has been aggressively fighting poverty for years. Every year since 2012, the percentage of people who live in poverty has lowered by a range of 4.6% to 6.9%. This effectively cut the percentage of people living in extreme poverty since 2012 in half. This is due largely to the fact that Vietnam has been experiencing massive economic growth in the last decade. In addition, it has been shifting to a market-based economy with a socialistic orientation.

Millions Have Been Lifted Out of Poverty

The country has experienced significant improvement with regards to government openness and transparency, as well as education and human development. Inward investments and focusing on increasing exports have been one of the drivers of this prosperity as well as a focus on reducing poverty in the country. Overall, 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty since 1992. According to a report by the IMF, the government has been investing in housing, education and infrastructure for its vulnerable population, especially ethnic minorities and those who live in remote areas. All of this has contributed to the small percentages of homelessness in Vietnam.

There Are Still Some Challenges

While the numbers are improving for Vietnamese-born homeless children, the population of migrant children is on the rise. It is estimated, in 2006, that the number of these children was around 23,000. Migrant children, according to some reports, are coming from rural areas in Vietnam. They represent a new social phenomenon in Vietnamese society. Many of these children are homeless and their parents use them to generate income. Many of them don’t have identification or any personal papers and are very vulnerable to labor exploitation by those who employ them. Those children cannot attend university or go to the hospital. Sadly, homelessness in Vietnam often exposes them to other risks such as sexual abuse and even certain diseases.

Thankfully, there are those who are working on solutions to tackle homelessness in Vietnam. They are specifically tackling the problem of street children. Do Duy Vi, the Chief Outreach Officer of Blue Dragon Children Foundation, himself used to be a child of the streets. Today he works as a social worker trying to get children off the streets by guiding them to walk the same path he did. He offers them a similar opportunity that he was offered. He helps street children become outreach workers for the Australian funded foundation. During the period of July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, the foundation rescued 116 children off the streets and connected 62 of them with their families. It also represented 52 children in child protection cases and provided 107 human trafficking survivors with emergency accommodations. Part of the organization’s job also includes working with government authorities. As such, they helped the 694 government officials become more skilled in countering violations of child rights and trafficking. These are just some of the signs of hope for the destitute in this country.

More Needs To Be Done

It has been reported that 400 organizations and NGOs are helping 15,000 children living in extremely difficult situations. More needs to be done in terms of spreading awareness about the problem and explaining child protection laws that protect youngsters in Vietnam from being exploited for profit.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in Vietnam Vietnam has made significant progress in reducing poverty. Since 2002, more than 45 million people have risen above the poverty line. Today, only 6% of the population lives in poverty. However, 86% of those people are ethnic minorities, meaning there is room for improvement. Here are three NGOs in Vietnam that are continuing to improve life.

Oxfam

In 2014, Oxfam launched its Even It Up campaign to reduce global income inequality. In Vietnam, they identified that only around 200 people own 12% of the country’s wealth. The wealth of the richest person in Vietnam could lift 1.3 million Vietnamese out of poverty. Unfortunately, this consolidation of wealth has risen as the poverty rate has fallen.

Solving income inequality is key to fighting poverty, as Oxfam stated in a 2017 report: “high levels of inequality reduce social mobility, leaving the poorest more likely to remain poor for generations.” Oxfam tackles this issue by advocating for governance reforms, such as tax and wage reform, and support for socially disadvantaged peoples. Their past successes helped over 400,000 rural women and minorities and migrant workers.

SNV

SNV is an NGO based in the Netherlands. They focus on promoting “premium quality” in agriculture, energy, and WASH (sanitation). The NGO in Vietnam worked with the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative to assist Vietnamese pangasius farmers in using sustainable farming practices. Pangasius, a relative of the U.S. catfish, makes up a substantial portion of Vietnam’s exports. SNV  wanted to help address concerns about the environmental quality of pangasius operations. SNV worked with the IDH, members of the seafood industry and the government of Vietnam to help pangasius operations achieve Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification. Between 2011 and 2013, SNV helped farmers produce over 50,000 metric tons of pangasius. They also ensured co-financing for 35 operations.

In 2016, SNV partnered with NGOs CARE and Oxfam to implement the Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) project. It aims to reduce gender inequality among ethnic minorities in Northwest Vietnam. In the Lao Cai and Bac Kan provinces, WEAVE is helping women who participate in the banana, pork, and cinnamon industries. In the Nam Det commune in the Lao Cai province, more than 1,300 hectares of cinnamon are now USDA-certified organic. This is over 70% of the acreage in the commune. This certification will not only support sustainable agriculture, but it will also increase jobs in the cinnamon industry, especially for women.

Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund

The Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund operates only in Vietnam. They focus on education and the transportation necessary for it. For example, they provide bikes and helmets to girls to help them attend school. As of 2019, they have provided more than 1,700 bikes and repaired more than 1,400. Rock-Paper-Scissors also ensures schools can offer music and art education classes. “Music and art provide a way for kids to leave the daily struggle of grinding poverty,” fund founder, Sara Stevens Narone, stated. In 2019, Rock-Paper-Scissors reached 87% with weekly art classes, 25 students with thrice a week music lessons and 150 minority students with a summer art camp.

These NGOs and others in Vietnam have helped improve quality of life. As COVID-19 has dampened the global economy, Vietnam still expects moderate growth rates of 3-4% in the next year. But this is three points lower than pre-COVID-19 expectations. This means much more can and should be done to combat poverty.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Wikimedia

Coffee Production in VietnamIn southeast Asia, Vietnam has dominated the coffee industry as the second-largest producer in the world behind Brazil. In 2016 alone, 1.8 million tons of coffee worth the equivalent of over $3 billion, was exported from Vietnam. Coffee production in Vietnam means more than popularity. It means economic stability and eliminating poverty.

Historical Production of Coffee

Coffee culture is an established social tradition in nearly all countries. Coffee beans have been one of the most impactful and cultivated products dating back to the 15th century. Societies changed with the creation of coffee houses and advances in technology to keep up with demands. The spike in crop exportation shifted coffee from an early morning refreshment to a global trade phenomenon.

Coffee production in Vietnam stems from French colonization in the mid-1850s. The Robusta bean became widespread throughout the country. After WWII and the Vietnam War, private farming opened up for more business opportunities. Vietnam began to slowly regain economic security in the late 1980s. Since then, 3 million jobs have been generated from coffee-based agriculture.

Technology

Advances in machinery have cut costs for farmers and have kept coffee production in Vietnam consistent compared with other competitors. Reducing the labor-intensive strip-picking with automative and mechanical harvesters has become the norm. Even hand-made equipment serve farmers by reducing damage to trees. Investing in technology to improve sustainability practices contributes to the national output. Coffee production in Vietnam has also profited due to investments put into advanced coffee plantlets from companies such as Nestlé.

Irrigation has a significant impact on coffee plantations due to water stress. Monitoring groundwater changes with water pilots help farmers evaluate how to manage aquifer recharge. Less water and pesticide use means a higher yield for farmers without paying more to combat the effects of climate change.

Gender Equality

Integrating women into coffee production in Vietnam has provided them with increased job opportunities. In contrast with predominantly male-run businesses, the coffee sector provides better access to women who wish to pursue business ventures.

Eighty-five percent of both men and women participate in economic enterprises in Vietnam. The inclusivity of women is higher in Vietnam than in other developing countries, where women are performing unpaid work. Through the booming coffee industry, women have aided in economic development through coffee trading companies. Negotiation strategies implemented by women through buyers and farmers prove to be successful. Training for the coffee supply chain given to women empowers them to make their own household decisions as entrepreneurs, and even own larger plots of land. Gender equality in the workplace is paving ways for gender equality throughout the country.

Sustainability

Vietnam has been ahead of other competitors regarding sustainable coffee production. Cooperatives such as K’Ho Coffee have utilized sustainable strategies such as planting nitrogen-fixing crops alongside coffee plants. This enhances the fertility of the soil. In addition, farmers raised free-range livestock and planted their own produce on their property to provide for themselves. Some experts also suggest that intercropping is the best way to increase the yield.

Programs focused on sustainable coffee production in Vietnam also increase annual income for farmers. The Sustainable Coffee Program has run for four years to help farmers adapt to the changing market. The program’s focus involved various ways to increase production, from resiliency to climate change to developing financial awareness.

Combating the risk of groundwater depletion through soil testing and reducing energy outputs helps the country produce coffee at low costs. Being sustainably certified puts Vietnam at the top of the competition. Improved efficiency within smallholder farms means less waste as well.

With a forecasted output of 32.2 million bags for 2020 and the country exceeding exportation rates to the US and the UK, Vietnam plans to stay near the top of the coffee sector. Coffee production in Vietnam turned a once-war-torn country into an export powerhouse. Locals enjoy quality coffee in various ways while tourists seek to try Cà phê trúng, egg coffee, for the first time. The tiny green bean is more than just a sweet morning pick-me-up. It’s a growing culture that is ever-changing the success of the country.

– Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay

Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam's Health Care System
As Vietnam has grown and developed over the last two to three decades, so has its health care system. There is a decrease in the number of deaths due to health issues and an increased rate of vaccination through Universal Health Coverage (UHC). With much success for the UHC implementation, Vietnam’s health system has become a model to other countries. However, there is still a difference in the level of care between the rich and poor in Vietnam’s health care system.

Health Care and Hospital Systems

Business Monitor International (BMI) stated that health care spending in Vietnam in 2017 increased to 7.5 percent of gross domestic production, which is $16.1 billion. Meanwhile, experts forecasted it to grow 12.5 percent annually during a four-year period from 2017-2021, which would be approximately $20 billion according to KPMG. Public health care spending is expanding with social health insurance programs that projections determine will 58.1 percent of all health care spending.

Vietnam’s health care system is decentralized with the Ministry of Health at the central level. Meanwhile, the provinces, cities, districts and communities connect to the Ministry of Health. The four groups implement their own health policies and manage their own health care system and facilities. The Ministry of Health (central level) manages the health care system for the government as well as hospitals, medical education and research. Provinces and cities run hospitals, other health care facilities and health care-education programs with central oversight. Finally, health care facilities at the district and commune-level provide basic medical care with preventative services.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Vietnam is a leader in implementing universal health coverage. This would cover medical and dental services as well as medicine and vaccines. The Global Monitoring Report on UHC by both the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that almost 88 percent of people in Vietnam have health coverage and 97 percent of the children received vaccinations. There is also a 75 percent decrease in the death of mothers through universal health coverage. Vietnam has reached health care goals (as recommended by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals) earlier as compared to other countries due to its strategy on using all that is available, including staffing and administration.

Public View and Poverty Gap

Vietnamese’s traditional viewpoint on health care services affects health care delivery. It is a common belief that larger health care facilities in big cities would provide better health care services through more specialized staffing and more robust technology and equipment. Therefore, people tend to overlook smaller local facilities in the countryside or in rural areas. This, in turn, is impeding faster and necessary care while incurring unnecessary, unknowing or avoidable high costs. Such a barrier would ultimately contradict the proposed health care strategy above.

Vietnam’s health governance body is working to change the public viewpoint on local community health by educating the public about the programs and charging local health offices to provide excellent care in order to build trust. Wealthy patients have better access and higher quality health care. As wealthy patients tend to live in big cities, they are closer to big health care facilities that are well equipped. Meanwhile, poorer patients often have to travel hundreds of miles from rural areas to reach better care. While private insurance gives patients primary and preventative medicine that would avoid high health care expenditures due to medical emergencies, wealthy patients have more opportunity to purchase private insurance for better care. Health care inequity leaves the poor at a disadvantage with higher chances for illness and a lower quality of care.

Support and Challenges for UHC

Vietnam’s universal health care is receiving support from the Working Group for Primary Healthcare Transformation. The group works to present and emphasize primary care services in provinces around Vietnam, as well as improve and expand those services moving forward. Harvard Medical School, a member of the group, helps with primary care structuring and management. Another member, Novartis, provides rural community health education outreach as well as technology and rural medicine education for health care professionals. For instance, Novartis’ Cung Song Khoe Program has provided treatment for many conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disease, as well as education for local rural communities and health care professionals, totaling 570,000 people served in 16 provinces. However, there are still challenges that are holding back Vietnam’s health care system including a high number of smokers and adults with alcohol usage, as well as extreme air pollution and aging populations.

Despite drawbacks from public views, health challenges and the environment, Vietnam’s universal health coverage is holding strong and progressing with ongoing program evaluations, strategic planning, improved care quality and partnerships. Therefore, Vietnam’s health care system has also been growing and is standing tall among that of other well-mentioned countries. With that said, eliminating health inequity is the focus to improve Vietnam’s health care.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Vietnam
Vietnam’s economy has grown remarkably over the last two decades. However, this growth would not have been possible without foreign aid to Vietnam. USAID’s work in supporting Vietnam’s economic growth and development is an excellent example of foreign aid at work. Here are five exceptional foreign aid projects in Vietnam that foster hope for positive results around the world.

5 Foreign Aid Projects in Vietnam

  1. Economy Foreign Aid Projects: USAID collaborates with Vietnam’s legal and regulatory affairs to expand foreign investment and economic growth. It works with the nation’s government and private sectors to move Vietnam into an internationally regulated and globalized market economy. For instance, USAID works to promote transparency in the governance of trade. The USAID Trade Facilitation Program intends to facilitate trade and communication between national and local customs officials. Lastly, USAID Linkages for Small and Medium Enterprises (LinkSME) facilitates relationships and streamline trading processes between buyers (SMEs) and suppliers. LinkSME ensures the presence of key policies and regulations in place to carry out business transactions and trade.
  2. Education Foreign Aid Projects: Through USAID, the Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT) Alliance and the Improving Access, Curriculum and Teaching In Medical Education and Emerging Diseases (IMPACT-MED) Alliance gather up efforts and resources from Vietnam and partner governments as well as leaders and educators in the field to enhance education on medicine, technology and engineering. The ongoing reform efforts aim for better instructional and educational experiences with modern technology and maintaining accreditation standards. Additionally, they strive for more intense faculty training, contemporary curriculum designs and positive relationships with academic partners. The outcomes from such reform efforts produce graduates with the preparation to join the workforce and maintain the high standards of the fields.
  3. Environment Foreign Aid Projects: There are many foreign aid programs and activities that USAID coordinated that help address climate change in Vietnam such as the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program (V-LEEP), the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program (VFD), the USAID Green Annamites Project and the Climate Resilient and Sustainable Urban Development Program. V-LEEP works to promote and sustain efficiency in renewable energy generation and usage as well as monetary investment into the work. The VFD helps to minimize deforestation in a joint effort with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The USAID Green Annamites Project supports land use in an eco-friendly fashion, conserves biodiversity and helps struggling communities bounce back from hardships in the Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue provinces. The Climate Resilient and Sustainable Urban Development Program work with the Asian Development Bank to support Vietnam’s urban development by participating in policy making and setting operation guidelines.
  4. Global Health Foreign Aid Projects: Public health concerns such as HIV, tuberculosis and influenza can have negative impacts on Vietnam’s economy. Through USAID, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) organizes events and treatment for patients. USAID also funds the Vietnamese government and provides technical support to health organizations across the country to address avian and other influenzas, as well as overlooked tropical diseases and pandemics. Vietnam has made accomplishments with a nationwide methadone distribution program that reached 50,000 patients, resulting in a reduction of avian-influenza cases from 2000 to less than 50 cases in just six years (2005-2011) while containing the potential pandemic.
  5. Disabled People Foreign Aid Projects: USAID has supported more than 30,000 persons with disabilities for more than 30 years with more than $125 million in U.S. government aid. USAID works to establish disability laws and regulations at the national level as well as the local level. The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is one example of USAID’s contributing efforts. USAID also supports eight disability projects that focus on rehabilitation and disability awareness as well as policies and regulations. Lastly, USAID also supports local disability awareness organizations.

USAID development projects foster hope around the globe. Like in Vietnam, these projects convey the message that foreign aids are constantly working toward positive change for many.

– Hung M Le
Photo: USAID

The Electrification of Vietnam 
Thirteen percent of the world’s population lacks access to electricity. This amounts to a whopping 940 million people living without electricity globally. People have made great strides in electrification. The year 2015 marks the first year in which the number of those without access to electricity fell below 1 billion, however, the world must continue efforts to address the large swathes of people continuing to live without this crucial resource. Electrification requires attention because energy access has a strong correlation with income levels and poorer households are far more likely to lack access to electricity. Due to this, access to electricity serves as an important social and economic indicator of poverty. Furthermore, electrification could be a cornerstone of poverty alleviation, economic growth and improving living standards. Here is some information about the electrification of Vietnam.

The Electrification of Vietnam

Vietnam’s rapid and total electrification is an impressive feat that has provided electricity throughout the nation. Since 2017, 100 percent of Vietnam’s population has access to electricity largely through the Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme. The program gave 82 million people access to electricity who did not have electrical grid access before. Vietnam progressed in its development agenda in efforts to provide better health care and improve overall welfare through its investment in electrification. Taking the time to understand the Vietnamese electrification process and its successes should allow people to apply these lessons in other regions where access to electricity is not as widespread.

Vietnam’s Electricity History

The Vietnamese electrification effort stems from the 1970s. After the Vietnam War and reunification, the Vietnamese infrastructure required a complete re-haul, electricity included. A major priority during this time period was connecting rice-producing areas to electricity for more efficient and modern industrial processes, as rice production was central to the Vietnamese economy. In the 1980s, Vietnam began to use renewable resources to power its rural electrification project. It did this in an effort to ensure that the focus was not only on urban economic development,  such as irrigation systems and other small rural industries, by building hydropower plants and corresponding high voltage transmission and distribution lines. Vietnam also enacted policy during this decade to support the shift in attention to rural areas. The Doi Moi Renovation Policy aimed to make electricity services more affordable and provide credit for rural consumers.

The biggest changes occurred beginning in the 1990s with the emergence of a clear state electrification strategy. One can see this in the Establishment of Vietnam Electricity, a large state-owned electricity company, along with other reforms, refocusing electrification programs on poor households and leading to a surge in rural electrification. This time period also saw the 1996 Resolution which also clarified the government’s goals, stating that Vietnam had a target of 100 percent of districts, 80 percent of communes and 60 percent of rural households to connect to the national grid by 2000.

The Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme

Aside from this, a huge part of Vietnam’s electrification in the 1990s was the Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme, launched in 1998. This program alone provided access to electricity to 82 million additional people. The program took a sustainable development approach to increase access, focusing on financing, institutional support and societal buy-ins.

The Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme receives its funding from a variety of sources including the central government, cross-subsidies made by charging urban customers a surcharge on each kilowatt-hour of electricity they use for rural development programs, contributions from rural parties, loans from commercial banks and the involvement of international donors including the Japanese government and OPEC.

The program garnered societal buy-ins and support for these projects through targeted program design. The success of the program was contingent on the training of local populations to assist authorities in planning and design so the system effectively served the community it aimed to aid. In the same vein, the program instituted the service agent model in running the projects. This method trained locals to do routine technical and commercial operations as well as regular maintenance. This not only reduces the operating costs of the electrical grid but also employs local communities, provides faster emergency response and fosters greater ownership of the electrical system by rural communities. Vietnam designed the entire program to include community participation in every phase. Because of this design, the program has been incredibly successful in increasing access and is an immense reason that Vietnam reached 100 percent electrification in such a short period of time.

While some pieces of Vietnam’s electrification journey are specific to the nation and its resources, such as access to hydropower, other nations lacking access to electrification can repeat much of the policy and programs. Others can learn much from Vietnam’s centralized planning and government investment allowing for the kickstart of the electrification project, as well as the local involvement in the implementation and use of diverse funding sources. Developing countries including Kenya at 63.8 percent access, Angola at 41.9 percent access and Chad at 10.9 percent access can model electrification projects after Vietnam’s, using renewable resources available in the nation’s regions. With such a successful example and proof that electrification is central to the quality of life and other modes of development including education and health care, the world must put more programs in place to increase access to electricity globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in Vietnam
Air pollution in Vietnam causes major health issues that include respiratory disorders and heart diseases. There are also economic consequences that lower Gross Domestic Production (GDP) and slow down the entire growth of the country. People in Vietnam have heavily discussed the air pollution issue in recent years.

Effects of Air Pollution in Vietnam

  1. Air Pollution: Air pollution in Vietnam consists of fine particulates that can cause respiratory disorders, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke among many other conditions. Generally, exhaust from cars and motorbikes, factory emissions and coal plants cause air pollution in Vietnam.
  2. Causes of Air Pollution: According to the National Economics University (NEU) conference, the use of fossil fuels for 90 percent of power generation is the cause of Vietnam’s polluted air quality. The conference also mentioned that Vietnam is taking on manufacturing activities with high pollution emissions from more developed countries due to less industrial regulations and lower costs. Consequently, this causes an increase in smog and air pollution. Additionally, the United States Consulate and UNICEF Vietnam funded the Ho Chi Minh City governance to place 13 air monitors around the city. In the meantime, the city itself is replacing dated motorbikes.
  3. Air Pollution Lowers Vietnam’s GDP: According to Chairman Miura Nobufumi of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in Vietnam, the air pollution crisis keeps foreign investors from investing in the country, which in turn diminishes the country’s economy. The country’s GDP in 2019 has decreased from 7.08 percent to 7.02, which translates to $10.82-$13.63 USD. The Vietnamese government is working to implement environmental rules, regulations and standards.
  4. Over 60,000 People Die in Vietnam Each Year: There were about 71,365 people in Vietnam who died of air pollution in 2017 which places Vietnam in fourth place within the region. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment reported that the Air Quality Index (AQI) was over 300, which means that pollution was at a very dangerous level. As a result, experts advised that people stay indoors. There were also fine air particles (less than 2.5 microns) that elevated three times above the acceptable threshold affecting people’s lungs and hearts. The Vietnam Minister of Natural Resources and Environment organized a system to address air pollution.
  5. Negligence Regarding Air Pollution: Amidst the dangerous air-quality readings with an average air-quality-index (AQI) of 202-240 in Hanoi, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment has only acknowledged the AQI of 256. It sent out an unintended announcement that the air quality would negatively affect human health. The Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) did not speak up at all. News reporters asked to contact the northern Center for Environmental Monitoring (CEM). In the meantime, CEM’s director said she would get in touch with VEA to make a public statement. In the end, the local authorities did not implement any coordinated effort, emergency or preventative measures.
  6. Easing Air Pollution: Dr. Hoang Tung Duong, who is the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership (VCAP), stated that there should be close monitoring of businesses that emit large amounts of smoke and dust through their manufacturing activities and practices. He also recommends a limit on the use of motorbikes during rush hours and that people should cut back on driving during certain hours of the day in order to reduce vehicle emissions.
  7. Addressing the Air Pollution Issue: There are organizations around Vietnam that are helping address the country’s air pollution issue. The Vietnam Association for Conservation of Natural Resources and Environment (VACNE) formed the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership (VCAP). This partnership gathers partners and individuals to raise awareness and carry out activities to address air pollution. Partners include the cities of Danang, Haiphong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, along with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (HEPA), the Southern Regional Hydrometeorological Center (SRHMC), the Vietnam Register, the Institute for Environment and Resources (CEFINEA) and the Vietnam National University. VACNE and its partners worked with Clean Air Asia and U.N. Environment to draft a policy for vehicles, such as motorbikes and cargo-loaders. The policy should ensure a standard for vehicle exhaustion, fuel emission and battery-use efficiency.

There are many negative consequences of air pollution. As a result, many organizations around the world are helping Vietnam with this issue. Additionally, Vietnam is developing policies and measures to reduce the amount of vehicle and industrial emissions as well as household energy usage. Positive prospects are on the horizon due collaborations between local governments in Vietnam and foreign organizations.

Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Agriculture and Poverty Reduction
The link between agriculture and poverty reduction has significant documentation. Developing countries that have risen from high levels of extreme poverty have seen improvements in agriculture and an increase in farmers’ wages that cooccur with drops in the poverty rate. According to an OECD report, one can attribute 52 percent of poverty reduction to growth in agriculture incomes. In addition, for a measure of 1 percent GNI growth, agriculture contributed the most to poverty reduction. The policy that seemed to work the most was significantly increasing the protection of agriculture exports by reducing high taxes on exports and reducing overly inflated exchange rates. The greatest advantage of improving agriculture is that the poorest of society benefits the most. The lower the literacy rates, the stronger the poverty-reducing effect.

Vietnam

Changes in Vietnam over the decades exemplify the link between agriculture and poverty reduction. It lifted its people out of extreme poverty by focusing on improvements in its agriculture sector. The poverty rate was northward of 60 percent in 1990 and fell to just 20.7 percent in 2010. Vietnam lifted an estimated 30 million people out of poverty in total. During that time, the government incentivized farmers to invest in their land. Instead of food shortages, the country was able to export its commodities at a surplus. Multilateral trade agreements formed, and the country moved from a closed economy to one open to trade. In the 1980s, Vietnam had food shortages, and today it is a major exporter of rice to world markets.

Indonesia

Some developing countries did not focus on developing their agriculture sectors. In addition to this, those countries experienced the opposite trend. In contrast to Vietnam, Indonesia slowed in poverty reduction last decade. Overall growth in this sector has been weak with researchers making little progress. The poverty rate declined by only half a percentage point in each 2012 and 2013, which was the smallest declines in the last decade. One of the reasons might be a recent trend where small farmers experience eviction from their land in favor of large companies. These companies then use the land for palm oil and rubber. However, are signs that suggest that the agriculture sector may be rebounding. In 2017, there was an increase in both agriculture employment and production. Currently, 32 percent of Indonesians work in the sector. Additionally, rice production went up to 75.4 million tons and up from around 70 million tons in 2014.

Guinea

Guinea is another country that focuses on other sectors for its economic growth. Mining makes up 80 percent of Guinea’s exports, and agriculture makes up the rest. Despite mining being a lucrative industry, it only employs 2.5 percent of the working population. Based on simulations using the 2014 population census, the poverty rate increased to 57.7 percent. Surprisingly, experts often cite Ebola as one of the causes, but low agriculture productivity is an equally large problem.

There is plenty of room for growth in this sector, both in terms of technology and land area farmed. In addition, farmers use very little agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and mechanization. In contrast, there are signs that agriculture is becoming more of a focus. The country has decided to invest in agriculture. In 2018, Guinea allocated 12.5 percent of its budget to agriculture, up from the current level of 7.3 percent. Additionally, IFAD and the Guinean government reached an aid agreement that will raise wages for 65,000 rural farm families and aims to increase family farm production.

For the poorest nations, choosing the sector to focus on reducing poverty is important. Evidence suggests that the link between agriculture and poverty reduction is strong. Developing countries that invest in the agriculture sector and promote policies that benefit farmers tend to fare better in this respect than countries that focus on other sectors.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Flickr

 

Vietnamese Mail-order Brides
The term mail-order bride is an uncomfortable term for many. The idea of ordering one’s spouse through the internet certainly goes against the established romantic norm that many people adhere to. However, the mail-order bride market is an international industry that one cannot ignore. Men and women, mainly in South East Asia, East Asia and Eastern Europe, employ the services of numerous matchmaking agencies and marriage brokers to search for their special someone. In South Korea, for example, some bachelors utilize these services because they are unable to find romantic relationships and partners in their country. Women from Vietnam, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine constitute the majority of the brides in these services. These women often come to these international matchmaking agencies because they are trying to escape the poor economic realities of their home countries, such as being in danger of sexual and economic exploitation. This article will highlight the reality of Vietnamese mail-order brides in particular.

Is it legal?

Perhaps this is the first question that comes to mind when one hears the term mail-order brides. The answer is that it is legal so long as all parties involved are going through the proper channels. This is part of the reason why many international matchmaking agencies shun the term mail-order brides. Despite what the term might suggest, no one is ordering another human being for shipment to their doorsteps. Instead, many clients of these matchmaking agencies have to work with international marriage brokers (IMBs) to connect and meet their potential spouses.

Accusations Against the Industry

There are certainly many accusations that people make against the mail-order bride industry. Critics accuse the industry of being another form of human trafficking for three main reasons. First, many women who become mail-order brides come from countries with limited economic access for women. Second, some marriage brokers and agencies in the business are more concerned with profit than they are about the well-being of the women they claim to help find love and new life. Lastly, people do not hold IMBs responsible for the safety of the mail-order brides they introduce their clients to, leaving many mail-order brides in danger of violence and exploitation from their spouses.

When looking at the language that IMBs use to describe their brides, the critics’ concerns toward IMBs are understandable. In The Atlantic’s report on Vietnamese mail-order brides, there is a picture of a poster in Ho Chi Minh City which advertises a marriage broker’s service. The poster reads, “She is a virgin, she will be yours in only three months, fixed price, if she escapes in the first year, guaranteed to be replaced.” This kind of attitude toward women, which treats them as commodities, is also prevalent in online mail-order bride services. Bestasianbrides.com, one of the biggest online IMBs, highlights the submissiveness of the Vietnamese mail-order brides. Under “Reason 2: Submissiveness,” the website writes, “There are literally millions of Vietnamese singles, and almost each of them will easily remind you what a real woman is. A womanly woman, you know, feminine.”

About the Women

The majority of the women who sign up with matchmaking agencies do so voluntarily. For these women, marrying a foreign man is one of the sure-fire ways to escape poverty in their country. This, however, does not eliminate the possibility of these women receiving false information about their future husbands. This could lead to further exploitation and violence once these Vietnamese brides arrive in their husbands’ home country. In 2010, for example, a South Korean man murdered his Vietnamese bride after eight days of marriage. The husband did not disclose his schizophrenia when he met his bride through a matchmaking agency. In the BBC’s 2019 report, it reported on a South Korean man who physically abused his Vietnamese wife. Many Vietnamese wives in South Korea sometimes find themselves at the mercy of their husbands because their immigration status depends on them.

Improving the Brides’ Safety

South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are taking measures to improve the safety of these brides. South Korea requires all IMBs to register with the state and provide background checks and criminal history of their clients. If the IMBs do not comply, it revokes their licenses. In the U.S., the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) regulates international marriage services. This protects foreign women marrying American men by requiring the husband to disclose their prior marital, financial and criminal history in order to obtain consent for marriage from their spouses. Meanwhile, Vietnam has entirely outlawed IMBs.

The mail-order brides industry certainly paints a very ambiguous picture. On one hand, there are men and women who are desperately looking for their special someone. These men and women, driven by their desire to start a family, climbing the socio-economic ladder or simply finding love, turn to many international matchmaking agencies to find their special someone. There are certainly some heartwarming love stories that came out of these mail-order bride marriages. This still does not change the fact that there are people who treat Vietnamese women like tradable commodities. This attitude puts many Vietnamese women in danger of violence, exploitation and abuse. Countries such as South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are making efforts in improving the conditions of these Vietnamese mail-order brides.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr