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Nuns help Vietnamese farmers adapt to climate change

They initiate a group to help give farmers climate-resilient livelihood options

Nuns help Vietnamese farmers adapt to climate change

Sister Mary Vu Thi Ngoc, head of the climate change group that was established in 2010, visits a farm in Huong Thuy District on July 20. (ucanews.com photo) 

ucanews.com reporter, Hue
Vietnam

August 9, 2017

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Seven years ago, Truong Thi Hat cultivated cassava on a 3,000 square-meter farm that yielded poor harvests due to drought, floods and termites at Quang Tho village in central Vietnam.

She also had to trade in second hand clothes to earn extra money while her husband worked at construction sites.

Hat's seven-member family lived in a 12-square-meter ramshackle house, was often short of food and owed six million dong (US$265) to a bank. "At that time we did not know what to do to improve our life," Hat said.

Then came a big change in fortunes. The family, in desperation, attended a workshop on selecting crops to cope better with climate change.

The workshop was conducted by the Catholic Group for Climate Change Prevention run by sisters in Hue city. Hat, a Buddhist, said nuns offered her 3 million dong to farm various vegetables and to raise poultry and pigs.

She was taught how to make natural fertilizers from dry leaves and straw as well as manure from poultry and pigs. Now she daily sells carrots, cabbage, okra, cauliflower, green beans and other vegetables to shops in Hue City. She also raises 100 chickens and a dozen pigs.

"We have improved our life, paid off debt and built a new house," Hat said proudly.

The region has long suffered seasonally extreme weather — from piercing cold to severe drought and tropical storms — that resulted in poor harvests.

However, it was floods caused by unseasonal rains from September to December, 2016, that destroyed crops, houses and public facilities worth US$16 million, according to government statistics. Regional authorities gave emergency supplies of rice as well as seeds for planting.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reports that Vietnam is among nations severely affected by climate change, including through natural disasters.

Daughters of Mary Immaculate Sister Mary Vu Thi Ngoc, head of the climate change group that was established in 2010, helps give farmers climate-resilient livelihood options.

Truong Thi Hat (right) looks after vegetable beds on her farm in front of her house on July 26. (ucanews.com photo)

 

For example, Sister Ngoc said group members teach farmers to build wooden trellises above their inundated land to grow vegetables and flowers during the rainy season. And they learn how to produce healthy crops without pesticides as well as use leftover rice, straw and sawdust for cultivating mushrooms.

The group includes five sisters from three congregations of Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation, Daughters of Mary Immaculate and St. Paul de Chartres. There are also 30 lay volunteers.

They are trained in organic farming and climate-change-resilience skills by the Center for Social Research and Development, a local non-governmental organization.

Sister Ngoc said at first the group offers farmers money to buy seeds, cattle and poultry, plow their farmland and even repair their houses. "So far, we have founded seven groups of farmers cultivating organic vegetables based at parishes in six districts," she said.

They sold healthy vegetables to local church-run nurseries, supermarkets and shops. Skills were passed on by these farmers to other farmers. Sister Ngoc, a social worker, said her group also offers local youths vocational skills such as making clothes, embroidery and rosaries from seashells. Nuns regularly visit and give health care, medicine, clothes and food to climate change victims in remote areas.

 

Catholic and Buddhist nuns and volunteers discuss ways to help people deal with climate change in Hue City in this file photo. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Sister Ngoc said there are courses for Catholics and non-Catholics alike in food safety, cancer prevention, health care for mothers and babies as well as the impacts of climate change. She said the group plans to send some farmers to learn how to produce biogas from cattle excrement and raise pigs during rainy seasons. People with physical disabilities will train in dealing with adverse weather conditions.

Volunteers also conduct courses in health prevention such as first aid, sunstroke, drowning, struck by lightening, swimming skills and how to deal with other diseases that result from climate change.

Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation Sister Teresa Nguyen Thi Lan, a doctor and member of the group, said she visits and encourages people affected by climate change to eat clean food, drink boiled water, use mosquito nets, bury garbage and prevent themselves from being bitten by snakes.

Sister Lan said nuns regularly visit and provide health care, medicine, clothes and food to climate change victims in remote areas of provinces of Quang Tri and Quang Binh.

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