First Person

Farmers are also innovators

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Le Thi Anh, a vegetable and chicken farmer in Vietnam, proves once again that we need to help local farmers share their innovative ideas, because they are usually the best ones.

I want to tell you about a famer I met on a recent trip to Vietnam. Her name is Le Thi Anh, and she lives in the mountains of Thai Nguyen province a few hours north of Hanoi, the capital. She’s got some innovative ideas, and your support for Oxfam is helping her share them with other farmers.

Anh grows tea, rice, maize, and various other vegetables, and she also raises chickens. It’s cold in this area, especially in the winter at night, so Anh used to have problems keeping her young chicks warm. She tried using electric heaters, but lacked a steady power supply. If the electricity cuts off in the middle of the night, which happens a lot in the mountains, the cold temperatures kill her chicks.

Anh told me that she got an idea from watching soldiers cooking their food on wood stoves. They figured out how to vent the smoke away from the stove to keep it from giving away their position to the enemy. So she built a brick-foundation chicken coop with a hollow area at one end where she builds a fire, and pipes the smoke away from the coop though a length of hollow bamboo. The foundation has channels that circulate the heat under the floor, which keeps the chicks dry and warm at night.

Anh built two coops and went from raising 200 chickens at a time to 2,000 chickens. She and her husband are now making more money: They’ve built a new house, they got a new motorbike, and they are educating their son and daughter at high school, and another son at university in Hanoi. They’re doing pretty well!

She says she is helping others in her village to build similar coops.

Anh entered her idea in a special farmer innovation forum that Oxfam organized with the local farmer union, and she won second prize. We’re promoting the idea that farmers have smart ideas, and encouraging the farmers to share them, because it encourages innovation. These days, it also helps share ways for farmers to adapt to unusual changes in the weather due to climate change. If farmers wait for the government or others to help them with new ideas, they may not get what they need in time.

I was really impressed by Anh and her coop design, and I also liked the fact that she developed it herself. I think it’s great that Oxfam is helping others learn about her coop heater design, but it’s an important reminder that not all the good ideas come from big NGOs or foreigners. We also need to help farmers develop and share their own ideas, because those are usually the best ones.

You can help farmers like Le Thi Anh with training and other support, please make a contribution to Oxfam.
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