Droughts Increased Pressure on Women’s Wellbeing

by Nguyen Thi Da Thao

Drought, as we commonly know it, is a reduction of moisture in the air, the loss of surface water sources, the reduction of flows in river basins, and the declining level of underground water supply. Not only does a drought cause environmental problems, it also negatively impacts cultivation patterns and people’s livelihoods, eventually.

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Pic 1: Women bringing containers to take water home after finishing work on their fields during a drought period

At my research site – Buon Choah Commune, Krong No District, Dak Nong Province, a drought often occurs annually from September to March. It causes farmers to work longer hours on their mountain fields. In this commune, men often leaves in search of jobs in cities or big farms and come back home 3-4 times per year. Their money earned is usually spent on necessities such as home building, children’s education fees, a motorbike and savings for their future. Women stay in the commune, take care of the children and do gardening to supply foods for their family. Therefore, a drought affects women directly.

During a group discussion, women said that the long drought they were facing upset their working and daily-life activities. They had to stay on their fields all day trying to irrigate them but could get only about 1/4 of the plots irrigated. With the lack of water, productivity dropped dramatically, and the amount of uncultivated land thus increased.

As a result, a lot of women had to find another source of income and became hired to work on coffee plantations outside the commune. This job required women to leave their homes early in the morning and come back late in the afternoon. They cannot stay at home, do housework, or take care of their young children. That’s why some women had to bring their children with them to the plantation. Also, some older children had to quit school to help their family.

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Pic 2: Women are going to coffee farms in early morning by a farm tractor ride.

Mrs. Vi Xiu, a woman in Buon Choah Commune, said, “We feel so tired during the drought period, we have to work hard all day, yet at night we still have to do household chores, prepare food for the next working day and often go to bed at midnight. During the drought, we have to spend 1 hour per day to get water for use at home. We have no time to take care of our heath and our children. During the drought, most women lose weight and become stressed out, but we have no choice; we have to earn money to buy food for our family”.

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Pic 3: Children are staying home without care from their parents.

Genetically modified maize on the rocky mountains of Buon Choah Commune

In recent years, hybrid corn plants, which have very well adapted to drought conditions, have helped people to earn more income and contribute to the success of the poverty reduction program in Buon Choah Commune. This commune consists of eight ethnic minority communities; most of them have migrated here from the North as a result of the implementation of the Vietnamese government’s new economic policy.

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Pic 4: Corn on the rocky area.

Mr. Vi Van Thanh – Buon Choah village head said, “The ethnic groups living in the mountainous areas in the North have more experience cultivating in high mountains. Once the moved here, they took cultivation techniques to Buon Choah and have applied them in agricultural activities. In recent years, due to the drought, some traditional crops have produced unpredictable and low-quality yields. The application of traditional techniques together with the farming model for genetically modified maize varieties have helped farmers to cultivate effectively on rocky mountains.”

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Pic 5: Women applying fertilizer to corns.

Mr. Y Po Ka Bin–a local farmer cheerfully said, “The hybrid genetically modified maize variety is more economically efficient than the native cassava and maize varieties. The most important techniques of planting corn on rocky mountains are the selection and arrangement of rocks into small pits, which takes a lot of time and effort. Then, people bring dirt from other areas and drop it in these pits before planting corn seeds in them. This job is mostly done by women. This growing method does not need much watering because this corn is very well adapted to droughts.”

According to Buon Choah Commune People Committee, the annual hybrid genetically modified maize variety planted on rocky areas adapt very well to the conditions of the local drought. This breed has brought farmers the average income of 10 to 5 million VND/crop. In the past years, local governments have actively collaborated with the agricultural business companies, agricultural scientists and Krong No’s extension station to expand this effective variety. In addition, traders come to buy corn from farmers right at the fields. This is very convenient for farmers because they do not have to haul it to markets. From the above advantages, the hybrid variety has been increasingly popular in Buon Choah Commune.

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Pic 6: Corn post – Harvest activity in Boun Choah Commune.