Thuy joined WPF’s microfinance partner Mekong Plus and their local partner, Thien Chi in September 2017. She received a gift from her parents of 100 dragonfruit plants and she borrowed 3 million VND ($131) from Thien Chi for their cultivation. She learned about dragonfruit cultivation from her parents who live nearby and also help her with this project. She also works as a day laborer in larger dragonfruit farms. The work is very irregular and depends on the season. She estimates that she works about 20 days per month, and the average wage for the area is 25,000 VND/hour ($1.09).
On WPF’s recent visit, Thuy mentioned attended two training sessions specific to dragonfruit (which is common crop in the Binh Thuan Province) put on by Thien Chi. The first training was the same day as disbursement of the first loan and covered the topic of dragonfruit diseases. The second one she received just the day before our visit in April 2018 when she received her second cycle loan disbursement, 3.5 million VND ($153). This second session focused on techniques for dragonfruit care during the main season. Thuy said they talked about treating a common fungus which has affected some of her plants.
You’ll notice the wires in the dragonfruit field are actually electrical wires for a lighting system. The normal growing season is June and July when the days are longer. However, the Binh Thuan district is hot enough to grow dragonfruit during other parts of the year, but there are not enough hours of sunlight. Therefore, many farmers install lighting in their fields to make their crops more productive. During these off seasons, the dragonfruit field might get lit up for the whole night for 15-20 nights. Of course, the electricity cost, at 3000 VND/Kw ($0.13) as well as the installation of the electricity wires and bulbs in the field are additional expenses.
Thuy is a single mom whose two children are in the 2nd and 4th grades. As a participant in Mekong Plus’s very poor program, Thuy receives not only access to several cycles of interest-free loan capital and agriculture training, but also each of her children have received a 500,000 VND ($22) scholarship at the beginning of the school year. Since Thuy has only recently established her own household separate from her parents, she doesn’t yet have access to the Vietnamese government’s safety net provisions. However, Thuy’s loan officer, Quy (pictured in the third photo above), will help to link her with services as she is eligible.
Microfinance Partner: Mekong Plus
Mekong Plus and its partners, Thiên Chí and Anh Dương, their Vietnamese partners, do not build schools or clinics. They instead fund microcredit loans. With Mekong Plus, no microloan is given without prior training and without the assistance of a field officer in the borrower’s community. Mekong Plus’s teams give priority to people who try hard themselves. Those households where the children’s education is a high priority, where hygiene is improved, where the people make a big effort by themselves, those people are priority targets for Mekong Plus’s programs.