Behind a Bridge

Phong Tho District is classified to be one of the 62 poorest districts in Vietnam. It is a good start to imagine how hard lives of people at Na Cung Village, Muong So Commune of this district are. In fact, 132 households of 618 Thai people are living in the area, in which 60 households are considered as Poor and the rest is Marginally Poor. The infrastructure is underdeveloped, especially roads and bridges. It is always difficult for farmers to transport agricultural products during harvest season, not to mention for children to go to school. The situation is even worse during rainy season when the village is completely isolated and inaccessible in days, which, in turn, causes the insufficiency of foods and medical care for local people.

But it has changed now. A 60-meter-long suspension bridge was built across Vang Pang Stream during the period from November 2012 to February 2013. The bridge is now a stable connection between Na Cung Village with the surrounding, even in harsh weather. Nowadays, we can go to this small village not only on foot but also by small vehicles like bicycles and motorbikes by crossing this linkage.

The renovation started long before the construction. As part of the Community Development Project, or so-called Song Da II, Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were organised in Lai Chau Province, which included farmers from Muong So Commune, Phong Tho District. Making the most of this opportunity, in Na Cung Village, farmers with the same interest in peanut cultivation gathered and established a farmer group. Together, they not only improved the capacity of agricultural production but also learnt how to prepare project proposal and conduct fundraising. Their application for the fund was one of eleven Community Development Projects (CDP) granted by the donation of Birthe Justesen Foundation via ADDA Vietnam. More importantly, the project attracted the participation of villagers in the construction and supported the cooperative relationship as well as the sense of ownership to the project. This community relationship is continuously strengthened after the finalisation of the project as the beneficiaries are now responsible for the maintenance and protection the vital connection of the village with the outside.

Hence, after months of construction and enthusiastic involvement, what local people have achieved is not only a bridge but also the sense of community binding.


 An old man using the suspension bridge to cross Vang Pang Stream

In the first 6 months of 2013, all 11 CDPs are the construction of facilities to improve the living and production conditions of local people as following:

• Drinking water systems: two water tanks and one reservoir near the villages;
• 1,300 m intra- and inter-village roads;
• An irrigation canal saving time and labour for farmers;
• A drying yard for drying rice and other agricultural products;
• Tanks collecting chemical pesticide packages and garbage to keep the countryside clean.

The total budget for above projects was over VND 1 billion, in which the donation granted by Birthe Justensen Foundation covered almost 56% and the rest was the contribution of local community. CD proposals are still being developed by FGs in project provinces until the new deadline for application in September 31, 2013. New donations from Danish private foundations are expected to grant these coming projects in 2014.


Road construction in Nhieu Sang Village, Ho Thau Commune, Tam Duong District, Lai Chau Province


Irrigation canal in Panh Village, Chieng Xom Commune, Son La City, Son La Province