Volunteer Experience in Bao Lam
Posted Date: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 | Source: www.warecod.org.vn

Some thoughts from a volunteer/ intern of WARECOD about the Promoting Local Adaptation of the Gam River Basin’s Water Management to Climate and Environmental Changes project in the Bao Lam district of the Cao Bang province funded by Rosa Luxemburg. 

During the course of our undergrad, I studied numerous NGOs as well as their development projects. I learned about what qualities make a project effective and why projects sometimes fail to bring about development. I have been heavily pondering this topic because last week I went on my first monthly field visit with WARECOD for one of our larger projects. We left on Friday for a six day trip to the Cao Bang province in Northern Vietnam to conduct some research. The entire experience was so great, and very different from the lifestyle I’ve had in Hanoi thus far. The scenery of the mountains and trees was indescribably beautiful, the air was so clean and fresh, and everyone who lived there seemed to be in such harmony with the earth. The villagers that I met were extremely hospitable and showed me many things from digging for cassava to  making a sticky rice and mung bean cake; they were even kind enough to share some of their sugar cane with me (which is very tough to eat but also very delicious). Moreover, this was the first time I got to witness one of our projects at hands – on level, and I feel like it really allowed me to understand and grasp the whole of its initiative. I noticed many components of this project that could create positive changes for the community we engaged with.

The project that we are executing is called Promoting Local Adaptation of the Gam River Basin’s Water Management to Climate and Environmental Changes. It is funded by a German organization called Rosa Luxemburg, and has a three year implementation period. Basically, WARECOD works with local researchers of two villages (Che Pen and Pac Pha) in the Bao Lam district of the Cao Bang province to collect local knowledge about extreme whether events in the area and how they negatively affect the livestock and harvest of the local people living in the basin, and therefore deteriorate their livelihoods. WARECOD pays the local researchers to investigate these issues and helps them to build their own database from the collected knowledge. During the first few days of each field visit, the local researchers work with the WARECOD staff to organize their information and develop their presentation skills. On the last day of the field work, WARECOD puts together a workshop and invites representatives from Rosa Luxemburg, members of the Cao Bang Department of Natural Resources, local authorities, and other relevant stakeholders. The local researchers then get to exercise their presentation skills by explaining to the audience their collected information and their recommendations on mitigating the effects of climate change and extreme weather events. WARECOD will then create a book based on the collected information and distribute it to the local authorities who can then easily convey the message to the rest of the people of the district.

My verdict on this project is that it is effective. Regularly, the provincial authorities are first given instructions on how to behave in the wake of extreme weather conditions from the central Vietnamese government, and then they pass this information to the local people. It is a very top – down approach and sometimes the local people do not fully understand what climate change is, and why certain behaviors must be practiced to mitigate its affects. This project aims to integrate the bottom – up approach with the traditional top – down approach by having local researchers investigate these issues and create a database on their own. It empowers this group of locals to understand the changing conditions of the earth and ensures them that their knowledge and specific observations are very relevant and worthwhile. Some of the local people have worked on the land for their entire lives and have more knowledge and insight than they are accredited for. An admirable observation I made from this field visit is that there were many local female researchers involved with this project. The WARECOD staff encouraged them to participate and speak in the workshop and deliver their ideas to the present stakeholders.

Perhaps this project will not bring about large – scale development for all of Vietnam, but it certainly helps this small province and district move in the right direction by empowering locals and women. It integrates a bottom up approach into a traditionally top down system which is far more effective than simply having local authorities pass information to local people without having them understand it. 

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