Women and their story of water management for aquaculture production in Thot Not, Vietnam

by Nguyen Thi Hai Ninh


In the previous blog, I wrote about the story of agriculture production in Mr Dieu and his family which is one of the large scale catfish farm in Trung Kien ward, Thot Not district. With this second blog, I will talk about the conversation with Mrs Ha, the wife of Mr Dieu to have a deeper understanding of Mrs Ha involvement in the aquaculture activities in her family. The conversation was conducted in her home one morning when her husband was away.

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Picture 1: Catfish farm in Vietnam

Mrs Ha is now 60 years old, she finished primary school. In comparison with many other women at her generation in the village, she feels more fortunate that she can read and write so she is able to assist her husband some work relating to aquaculture production such as to record number of working days of hired labor and to pay their monthly wages.

However, she said that her education may not be enough to attend training courses which are organized by local authority in collaboration with Thot Not extension station regarding to techniques as well as water quality management measures for aquaculture production. According to Mrs Ha, before raising catfish, her family owned 7 “công” of rice land (500m2/công) in which she cultivated two rice crops per year; she, her husband and their sons worked together in the field and they did not hire labor. In addition, she also spent most of her time to raise pigs and poultry so that these agricultural activities were the burden for her. Since her husband decided to move to catfish production in 2003, she engages less in aquaculture activities because the she does not know much about technique of catfish feed and care. Most of the work relating aquaculture production including pond water exchange is due to the her husband, sons and hired labor. Her daily work is to help him record labor working days and cook for the whole family. Occasionally, when the hired labor is shortage, she can help her husband preparing food for catfish but not involved in the feeding. Mr Dieu does not want her to feed catfish because he, like many other men in the village said that women should not participate in these activities as they often bring bad luck in catfish business.

 

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Picture 2: Feeding catfish in the fish pond can only be done by men. Many men believe women will bring bad luck in business if they feed the catfish.

In fact, Ms. Ha is like most women in the other households with catfish as they hardly engage in aquaculture activities because husbands are usually more understanding and higher power than in making decisions related to catfish farming. Nevertheless, there is still the story telling that women are quite successful in aquaculture production. It is the story of Mrs. Hoang Thi Bich in Thuan An ward, Thot Not district. Mrs. Bich is unlucky when her husband died young, she is alone with her 3 children, two girls and a boy. Ten years ago, when the trend of catfish production commonly started in Thot Not, she decided to transfer 5 “công” of rice land to catfish farming. She says because her son has not experienced on catfish raising so she has to make her own decisions related to the aquaculture activities including select the quantity and quality of fish, feed fish, fish care disease and water quality management in ponds.

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Picture 3: Men know a lot of catfish farming techniques, said Mrs. Bich

She often learns from the men in the village of catfish farming techniques. Besides, she makes the most of her time to attend training courses at the local extension to accumulate knowledge on aquaculture production for herself. Despite having more burden than other women in the village, Mrs. Bich feels very proud of what she is doing on aquaculture activities.

 

Our team ended another day of fieldwork in Thot Not by stories of two women with different family situations, and so their participation in aquaculture production is not completely same. The first story of Mrs. Ha is most popular in the Mekong River delta when women participate very little in terms of time and decision making in aquaculture production, especially  in water quality management. Mrs. Bich’s story shows a different side of women’s studies in natural resource management, which is when they are empowered to make decisions and implement themselves, they can do as well as local men.


Image source for picture 1: http://assets.worldwildlife.org/photos/2974/images/story_full_width/HI_297073.jpg?1353961997