Le Huu Hai, Vice President, Tieng Giang University, My Tho, Vietnam,
Ho Van Chien, Director, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Long Dinh, Vietnam,
Le Quoc Cuong, Vice Director, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Vietnam
Monina Escalada, University Professor, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines, and
K.L. Heong, Principal Scientist, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
Tien Giang province was the first to launch a program “Women in Ecological Engineering” in March 2012 on International Women’s Day. The program trained 200 women from 10 districts in Tien Giang province to initiate village level ecological engineering fields through the women’s organization. The vice chair of the People’s Committee, Madame Tran Kim Mai welcomed such ecological approaches to build biodiversity and women farmers’ capacity in the province. Tien Giang University together with the Southern Plant Protection Center and IRRI initiated further training program activities to build the capacity of more village level women clubs in September 2012. The program has trained another 500 women in courses that included “3 reductions, 3 gains” principles and practices as well as ecological engineering principles and practices. Women trainees were taught to observe the increase in bees and parasitoids (called small bees) that visit the nectar flowers grown on bunds and to preserve them. Since insecticide sprays will destroy the bees, sprays should be reduced and used only as the last resort.
We visited two villages and conducted focus group discussions with 26 women farmers. In Trung Hoa village, the trained farmers were training another 120 women farmers in 2 other villages, Tan Binh Thanh and Binh Phuc Nhat. All the farmers had reduced their insecticide inputs from two to three before the training to zero. They had increased their income by US$30 to US$45 per season and their husbands need not have to spray insecticides. Their yields had been either slightly higher or the same. This is to be expected as there is doubtful productivity gains from insecticide applications. Farmers in these villages were growing sticky rice varieties and were getting 5 to 7 t/ha.
In Binh Nhi village there were 36 women using ecological engineering in their farms. We talked to 12 of them and they all had reduced their insecticide use by 2 to 4 sprays, although they had continued to use herbicides and fungicides. This represented US$30 to US$60 per season savings from inputs. The farmers also claimed that they had higher yields. When we explored further we found that they were using the “3 reductions” practices reducing their seed and nitrogen rates as well. On average farmers said they get about 6 to 7 t/ha with one who said that she had obtained 8 tons.
The women we talked to seem very enthusiastic about the new practices, as they had not only reduced their insecticide inputs but had made the village beautiful. Most women farmers said that they had used the extra cash to buy new clothes, items for the household and their children. Their husbands often do the spraying and exposed to the poisons. Ecological engineering also reduced their husbands’ health risks and work loads. Researchers in Tien Giang University have conducted an evaluation survey to quantify some of these effects of the training. The local plant protection department provided the seeds for the first season and subsequently farmers have been using the seeds they had collected.
We also asked them if they had viewed the ecological engineering TV from Vinh Long TV station and all said they had. They particularly liked the character Ba Cai as he is always funny and his questions paves the way for the scientists’ explanations in the second part of the episode. They did not particularly like Chi Bay the woman who was always scolding Ba Cai. No one had viewed all 20 episodes but the majority had seen 3 or 4 episodes. They said would like to watch more episodes but the times of the broadcast (4:40 pm on Saturday and 8 am on Sunday) were inconvenient. They had requested for re broadcasts be done by the Tien Giang TV station.