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08/03/2016 16:08:45 PM

Hibiscus: new product - new development in Tuan Giao (Dien Bien)

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The “Sustainable livelihood for women in north Vietnam Project” is implemented by Community Finance Resource Center (CFRC) in the Tuan Giao district of the Dien Bien province. Dien Bien is situated in the northwest of Vietnam, and is the poorest in the country. M7 microfinance services have been provided to poor and ethnic minority women here since 1998. However there have been indications of the locals needing more support in order to move up the economic-wellbeing ladder.

At the beginning of the project, CFRC conducted a market assessment to identify potential areas where the impact of an intervention would be tangible. The research showed that agriculture accounts for a major proportion of the local economy. Nonetheless, traditional crops such as rice, corn and cassava yield low productivity and income. As an example, farmers usually earn USD 350-400 per hectare of cassava and USD 750-800 per hectare of corn (in terms of revenue).

After working with Thao Moc Co., the leading company in producing and selling Hibiscus products, the Business development unit of CFRC was able to develop a new cooperation between Thao Moc, CFRC and farmers in Tuan Giao to grow and sell Hibiscus. In the cooperation, farmers serve as producers. They are responsible for their own production costs such as fertilizers, tools and labor. Thao Moc Co. provides seeds, technical know-how and counseling. Mdme. Mai Thi Tan, director of Thao Moc Co., who are the first person to develop Hibiscus and Hibiscus products in Vietnam, directly give technical training to the farmers. The company has also pledged to buy raw Hibiscus calyxes grown by the farmers. CFRC facilitates the process between the suppliers (farmers) and the buyer (Thao Moc Co.). CFRC also sponsors technical training and provides business training to Hibiscus farmers so that they know how to start and manage their business. More importantly, CFRC will also help farmers with the development of a new business model and the subsequent establishment of a brand: Tuan Giao Hibiscus tea. In this process, CFRC will help farmers with packaging, marketing and sale of the tea.

Mdme. Mai Thi Tan and Hibiscus farmers agrees to cooperate

Eight families, out of which seven are from the Thai ethnic minority, volunteered to pilot on a total land area of 1.6 hectare in Tuan Giao Township, Quai To Commune, Chieng Sinh Commune and Quai Cang Commune. Four households was currently living under national poverty line i.e. having average income per person lower than VND 400,000 (USD 19) per month. The farmers started to plant in May 2013. During five months, the project officer responsible paid regular visit and provided technical and business advice. Aiming at providing a quality and clean tea product to consumers, farmers used cattle manure as fertilizers and used no chemical pesticide or herbicide.

Technical training workshop

In late September, when hills were covered by color of Hibiscus blossoms, the time came to prepare for a new business season. A package design and marketing tools were developed for two products: fresh Hibiscus calyxes and dried Hibiscus tea. CFRC also employed different communication channels to promote the product (website, social network activity, newsletter, newspaper and TV).

Hibiscus blossoms

Fresh Hibiscus calyxes in Tuan Giao

Dried Hibiscus tea packaged by CFRC

On the 26th and 27th of November, CFRC organized “Tuan Giao Hibiscus Festival” to make an official introduction of the product to the local government and community. Apart from product display and sale, many activities were carried out including a launching ceremony, blood pressure measuring (Hibiscus is known to reduce blood pressure), traditional dance and games in order to attract visitors. More than 30 representatives from the Foreign Relations Department, Tuan Giao People’s Committee, and 6 communes attended the launching ceremony. In his speech, Mr. Nguyen Van Hanh, Director of Dien Bien Foreign Relations Department, thought that “Hibiscus was a potential product and highly appreciated initial achievements of the project. The project should be further developed in a sustainable way to help more families improve their life”. In two days, more than 800 people visited the Festival and bought Hibiscus products for their own consumption and as a souvenir to friends in other areas.

Tuan Giao Hibiscus Festival

In the next few months, a BDS shop will be opened to promote Hibiscus tea as well as products of other M7 microfinance members.
By the end of October, the 8 families sold more than 5 tons of fresh Hibiscus in total, earning them more than 100 million dong (USD 5,000). Beside the economic improvement, the farmers could directly participate in promoting and selling Hibiscus, as well as opening a cash book to track their incomes and expenses, thus becoming more confident entrepreneurs.

Representatives of CFRC, Thao Moc, Foreign Relations Department of Dien Bien and People's Committee of Tuan Giao hosting the "tea ceremony"

Hibiscus farmers expressed thankfulness to CFRC and Thao Moc Co. for bringing them life-changing opportunity

Products of both farmers and Thao Moc Co. were displayed and sold at the festival 

Free blood pressure measuring for clients

A traditional dance with bamboo sticks attracted many clients

The Hibiscus farmers were introducing products to clients 

..and giving detailed information and advice 

Children are really fond of Hibiscus drink for its nice taste and beautiful color

Lien Pham