Learning Route in Vietnam opens to share knowledge and scale up innovation

Learning Route in Vietnam opens to share knowledge and scale up innovations (Chapter 1)

Quang Binh 22 July: Taking place for the first time, a 7-day innovation and field-based training program called “Learning Route” was opening for implementation in Vietnam. Co-organised by PROCASUR and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the program focuses on main theme of “Strengthening Farmers’ Organization, Sustainable Business Models and Public Private Partnership in Agriculture”.  The training builds around innovative models implemented by two IFAD financed projects in central region, the Decentralized Programme for Poverty Reduction in Quang Binh and Improving for Market Participation in Ha Tinh, and is intended as a knowledge management and capacity building tool to replicate and scale up best practices and innovations.
Over forty participants, with over one third of them are women from several IFAD financed projects take part in the Learning. They include projects implemented in Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Tuyen Quang, Ninh Thuan, Gia Lai, Dak Nong as well as the two hosts of Quang Binh and Ha Tinh. All participants are ready to play their part in an action-packed journey that will take them to project sites between 22 and 27 July 2013.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Hue, Knowledge Management Officer of Developing Business with the Poor Project in Cao Bang in Northern Uplands said she is extremely excited about the learning opportunity and the week ahead. “This is the first time I am participating in this Learning Route program. I hope to learn about new approaches, good practices in the host projects, in particular those about income generation and improving the lives of poor farmers and communities”, she said.
Mr. Ho Minh Trung, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of Tam Nong Support Project Gia Lai (TNSP) in Central Highlands shared that the project has been implemented for only two years, therefore he and his five colleagues from TNSP have a lot to learn. “We hope to capture knowledge about set up and sustain Common Interest Groups and Cooperatives, and how to develop income generation at households. Also the we plan to organize Learning Route at provincial level”, he said.

“Learning Routes will be an effective learning mechanism for us all”, acknowledged Mr. Ha Van Hoa, Project Director of TNSP Tuyen Quang who speaks on behalf of the participants about their learning objectives and expectation. “We often organize field visits without clear vision of how to use the newly gained knowledge in our own context. So the Learning Route certainly provides us with a new and methodological approach to expose, document and apply knowledge which could be very practical”. He also said that knowledge learning and sharing are so critical for all IFAD financed projects and thus the Learning Route should be institutionalize as a system that enhances dissemination of best practices and innovation for their scale-up, and therefore annual planning should include this activity and resource allocation.
According to PROCASUR, the Learning Route is a way to promote rural development knowledge that positively includes learning among project staff, grass root organizations, private sector and local champions. This will continue after the end of the journey itself, allowing development projects the methods and tools to adapt and expand innovations and best solutions for the rural poor communities.

The end goal is for the local participants to become more effective and strategic in their own context. The Learning Route encourages each participant to come up with a concrete innovation plan for actions.
Ms. Le Thi Van Hong, Acting Project Director of DPRPR Quang Binh stressed that “sharing and learning from successful experiences is the ultimate goal of all IFAD funded projects. I do hope that through “Learning Routes”, participants will be able to get good experiences and new perspectives so that they come back with new solutions to address poverty in Vietnam while improving efficiency and impact of all our projects”.
Written by Phạm Tùng Lâm

Best Innovation for Replication and Scale-up

 Chut and other team members from Dak Nong.
27 July 2013, Ha Tinh, Vietnam: The final day of the Learning Route on “Strengthening Farmers Organization, Developing Sustainable Business Models and Public Private Partnership in Agriculture” looked extremely vibrant and exciting. Over 40 route participants busily exchanged views and debated with other members of their groups to crack down final details of their innovation plan – a final stage of conceptualizing what they have learned and taken home after their seven-days journey which have taken them to good project models in districts of Bo Trach and Quang Ninh in Quang Binh and Thach Ha district in Ha Tinh. The program was jointly organized by IFAD Vietnam and Procasur.
Completing his group presentation, Mr. Lai Van Chut, a farmer representative from Dak Long, Dak Nong province in Central Highlands felt motivated than ever. Having worked in the field for more than twenty years, he is inspired to turn the newly- gained ideas from the Learning Route into an innovation plan that will not only benefit his households but also his community at large.

“We had a failure of setting a common interest group (CIG) on clean vegetables in the past. But we have now gained new insights and energies from the Learning Route to start it over again”, shared Chut. “We will find innovative way to strengthen our group by increasing the skills of key members and giving them clear responsibilities and incentives. These will unite and tie our group members together based on our common interest”, continued Chut.

From the field visits, idea from Hoang Ha Safe Vegetable Cooperative in Tuong Son, Thach Ha District Ha Tinh has motivated Chut to replicate a new vegetable CIG for his  own community.

“For Hoang Ha cooperative, as farmers get together, they could jointly decide what are the best products for growing during a particular period of time and sell in bulk instead of by individual households. Thus they gain better access to big market and higher price”, he said while referring to the key lesson learned he takes home from the learning route.
According to the idea of Chut and his group members, they would like to start off a pilot of commercial vegetable farming on a land of 3,5 hectares that will increase profits for 30 local women and men by at least 10%  to 15%.

“We have just grown vegetables based on season and based on our own needs, and our quality and  quantity never meet big contracts. Seeing good experiences in the host community in Ha Tinh has sparked our thinking differently in how to increase our income selling as a group in larger quantity and directly to market”, he noted.
Mr. Tran Van Toan, Head of Agricultural Services of 3EM Dak Nong said that this innovation is  truly based on ground context where the projects is proposed as well as from extracting and analyzing the three cases they have visited.  “Innovative, practical and impactful are key things we are looking for in this project”, stressed Toan. “It can connect many people working for a common objective. We should think big, but start small and build on opportunities and successes along the way of implementation”, he said and stressed that the 3EM project will be willing to co-finance this innovation.

                                                                                                            LR participants visit Hoang Ha Safe Vegetable Cooperative.

Being a host as well as a participant of the Learning Route, Nguyen Viet Son, Chair of Hoang Ha Safe Vegetable Cooperative is content with the process, outcomes and increased awareness on tools available for rural development by all participants.  “In these seven days of journeying and learning together, we have seen very good cases in business models and group strengthening activities. We take back very positive lesson learned and experiences”, summarized Son. “I am very happy to go to Dak Nong to support Chut to set up a group on clean vegetables”.

The innovative idea of Chut and Dak Nong was not just alone. Many other initiatives and new proposals were presented by other participants. They provide innovative ways of addressing rural poverty by strengthening farmer organization, business models and scale up best practices.

Coming also from Central Highlands, Mr. Trinh Quoc Viet, Director of Agricultural Extension Gia Lai shared that the approach of the learning route is to bring those who in needs to learn from the best practices and for the best practices cases to learn from other participants’ experiences, so as to better off mutually. He said “It is new and very open way of learning. I also have to learn from this approach to organize the same activities in my province”.

Following the Learning Route, view updates and full innovation plans from 8 IFAD funded project in Vietnam in the coming days here: