Mrs. Toan (50) found herself in a tough spot. She lived with her family in a small degraded house in Hoai Duc, Hanoi. She amassed a debt of US$10,000 when she ran out of options to provide for her 80 year-old mother-in-law, war-wounded husband and four children, and took out a high interest loan from a money lender. This put her in the seemingly impossible situation of paying off the loan and interest while trying to also pay for their living costs from her small income. She heard about YWAM Mercy’s Opportunity Teams and their goal of helping people escape poverty and decided to participate starting in 2010, one decade ago.
After receiving training, she applied what she learnt to her cow and pig raising activities, but her family’s situation did not improve much at first. In 2013, she bravely decided to transform all her rice paddies to raise high-market-demand vegetables. She planted beans, peanuts, tomatoes, loofah, apples, guava and other seasonal plants. She even borrowed nearby abandoned fields to increase her yield and ability to supply vegetables to the profitable Hanoi market. She also planted rice for her family so they could eat all year without having to buy rice at the market.
She shared that people in her village call her a “ghost” because she often uses her head-lamp to spray herbal pesticide to kill worms in her apple orchard at nighttime when it’s most effective. That gives her the daytime hours for harvesting.
After many years of hard work, her income could feed her family but only partly paid off her debt. Wanting to learn all she could in hopes of improving her situation further, she joined in a study tour to visit farms in other areas. She learned about high-yield plants and intercropping for greater profitability. and best results at harvest time. For example, she transplanted cucumbers while harvesting apples in the same field. She grows bitter melon for summer harvest and kohlrabi for winter harvest in the same field so she always has something to sell.
The recent study tour organized by YWAM Mercy gave me strong motivation to restructure my crops. Urbanization is occurring rapidly in my location. I and my family’s members will try our best to pay all our debt quickly and grow high quality fruits in the hot house for high-income consumers in the city centre this year.
Mrs. Toan not only applied practical farming skills, she also developed an effective vision for her agricultural activities. These ideas came from training that she received which made her easily adapt to a new situation and taught her the skills to ask questions so she realized that analyzing the market and being intentional about sales and marketing was very important.
Her daughter wanted to be involved in this successful business. Mrs. Toan decided to focus personally on production and her daughter took on sales and marketing of their products. They decided to rent a shop in Hanoi to sell their fresh, safe, diversified produce. Because their products meet the demands of the Hanoi consumer, their sales have not been much affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent years, Mrs. Toan has had an average savings after her family’s expenses of over 100 million dong per year (about US$4,300). Closely listening to the consumer’s demand, has led her to order new seedlings such as nutritious eggplants, long and healthy loofah which she now is able to learn to grow by self-learning through YouTube.
Over the decade, many new houses in her hamlet were built. She decided to use all her family savings of 700 million dong (US$30,400) and borrowed and additional 600 millions dong (US$26,000) and built a new house last year.
And thanks to her effective farming business, she has already paid back 50% of the money she borrowed for building the house. All her family members are very happy with their new house and continue to help with the farming business to pay back the entire loan.
Joining YWAM Mercy’s project, I see the importance of continuous learning. Additionally, I am more confident to present my ideas in front of people. I realize I can learn a lot of new things.