Minutes of the ISG Plenary Meeting 2002
"Rural Development for Growth and Poverty Reduction "

Chaired by:
H.E. Minister Le Huy Ngo, MARD
Dr. Lê Van Minh, Director General, ICD - MARD
Mr. Hitoshi Ozawa, Development Counselor, Japanese Embassy
Mr. Christopher Gibbs, Rural Sector Coordinator, World Bank
Mr. Brian Doolan, Country Director, CARE International

Time: 8:00 - 12:00, 7th June 2002.

Venue: Bao Son Hotel, 2 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Hanoi

Participants: Members of ISG Steering Board, representatives of relevant line ministries and sectors, representatives of all donors and international organisations involved in agriculture and rural development, and news agencies.

Secretaries:
Mr. Tran Nam Binh, Manager - ISG Secretariat
Mr. Ngo Gia Trung, Secretary - ISG Secretariat

1. Agenda introduction: on behalf of the organization board of the meeting, Dr. Le Van Minh, Director General of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (ICD - MARD), Deputy Chairman of the ISG Steering Board, introduced the tentative agenda of the meeting. The agenda was then approved by the Chairmen and all the participants.

Presentation and reports:

2. H.E Minister Le Huy Ngo opened the Meeting.

In his opening speech "Concentration of resources for growth in order to reduce poverty", the Minister expressed MARD's great honor to receive the participants who are representatives of donors, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, relevant Ministries and agencies of Vietnam at the annual Plenary meeting of the International Support Group (ISG), a forum for policy dialogue for the cause of Vietnam's agriculture and rural development.

The Minister emphasized that the forum this year, entitled "Rural development for growth and poverty reduction" was mainly for the implementation of the Poverty reduction Strategy recently approved by the Prime Minister on 21st May 2002. The Minister also called on the participants to contribute their precious ideas and suggestions for the agriculture and rural development sector regarding realization of the ideas introduced and discussed at the mid-term meeting of Donors' Consultative Group (the CG meeting) held 24th May 2002 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Minister drew the attention of the participants to the fact that the efforts for growth and poverty reduction should be placed in the context of international economic integration, progressing at a very high speed. The affects of the integration to poor farmers, to production and exports of agro-products should surely be evaluated and taken into serious and thorough consideration before an orientation for policy and strategy can be built, due to the fact that, in human aspects, farmers are the ones of most vulnerability; in terms of market, agro-forestry products are the ones most sensitively affected by the integration process.

The Minister also stressed that in the process of supporting growth in order to improve the life of the poor, the efforts being made by all the stakeholders should be coordinated and oriented for best effectiveness. Main activities should therefore be: development of rural infrastructure in service of poverty reduction, receipt of new techniques and technologies and transferring them to farmers, promotion of agro-forestry extension particularly at grassroots levels.
(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting).

3. On behalf of MARD, Mr. Tran Tiep De, Deputy Director General of the Department of Planning and Projections, presented the report "Some current issues in agriculture and rural development in Vietnam", including two parts with some important contents as stated hereunder:

  • Part I - overview of agriculture and rural development in 2001-2002: Amendment, supplementation in policies to create new impetus for the rural and agricultural development; Agricultural production in 2001 and the 5 months of 2002; Rural situation: The development of industry and rural businesses; Employment, income generation and poverty alleviation; Infrastructure development.
  • Part II - Some prioritized areas and solutions for implementation: Continue to implement the advocated shift of agriculture and rural economic structure in the spirit of the resolution No. 09 of the Government; Application of the advancement of science and technology; Renovation of policies and mechanisms; Development of processing industry and enhanced application of processing technology; Development of markets for agro-forestry-fishery products; Facilitate poverty alleviation and improve employment opportunities.

(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting).

4. On behalf of the MARD CPRGS Working Group, Dr. Dang Kim Son, Deputy Director, Information Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (ICARD), informed the participants of the main tasks done by the Group:

  • Formulate a list of main documents, including strategic documents of MARD, of the Government, and some of the main documents of the donors in English and Vietnamese.
  • Formulate a strategic framework, including 3 strategic objectives and 12 specific objectives, divided into 46 activities. Based on these documents, the working group commented to the report on poverty reduction by the Government.

Dr. Son also put forward some lessons learnt by the working group

  • The process of making recommendations for CPRGS document is an effective practice for agricultural sector. Through this activity, the Working Group of CPRGS has been established and planned to be sustained through the implementation of the strategy.
  • The role of Expert Group has been improved and coordination between Expert Group and Working Group has been built and worked out effectively. This is a good structure to monitor, assess, analyse impact and propose policy recommendations for the implementation phase.
  • Smooth and effective coordination between donors and MARD in terms of knowledge and material support has created good results for the formulation of policies and strategies.
  • Activities done by many parties such as establishing and implementing strategy should be managed in priorities to make agreement between participatory parties on log frame, order of priorities and objectives, and assignment for the implementation of specific activities.

Finally, he informed the participants of the tentative action plans of the working group.

5. Mr. Dang Van Thang, Deputy Director General of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department, Ministry of Trade presented the report "Vietnam's agro-forestry products in economic integration - from trade aspects".

Mr. Thang also added some issues and expressed his ideas: in order to help the farmers to have better income, better living standards, it is, first, necessary to provide them with orientations regarding which seeds and breeds to produce so as to meet market needs, because of the fact that if attention is paid only to meeting domestic needs, the added value of the products produced by the farmers will be very low. Litchi is one significant example. Solutions for preservation and consumption of litchi are needed. Additionally, he drew the attention of the participants to the fact that priority policies for farmers and for the poor should be taken into consideration.

(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting).

6. Mr. Pieter Smidt, representative from Asian Development Bank- ADB, made a brief presentation "ADB's response to the Government's poverty reduction strategy with the agriculture and rural development context.

He mentioned the direction that ADB operations in the areas of agriculture and rural development, and the associated area of natural resource management, will support pro-poor sustainable growth through a combination of policy improvements and direct investment. These operations will focus on promoting crop diversification and adoption of modern technology in the agriculture sector; the development of small and medium enterprises (SME), especially in rural areas; effective natural resources management, balancing the dependence of the poor on natural resources for their livelihoods with the need to ensure sustainable use of natural capital; provision of supporting infrastructure including availability of power and roads to markets; strengthening the rural financial system to meet the diverse needs of the poor.

This support will take place within the broader framework of ADB support for private sector development, modernization of the financial sector, social development, environment and good governance.

In his conclusion, he said stressed that the Government's PRGS provides a good framework for addressing poverty. ADB's strategy during the next five years is consistent with the CPRGS. ADB's operations in the agriculture and rural development sectors would improve the livelihood for the people in the rural area and support the gradual transition of Viet Nam's economy from an agricultural and rural economy to a more urban and industrialized one.).
(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting).

7. Mr. Christopher Gibbs, representative from the World Bank, made an introduction to the Role of Rural Development in the CPRGS.

The Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS) is the Government's new road map for economic growth and poverty reduction. The CPRGS was prepared by a Government team, led by MPI, and endorsed by the Prime Minister on May 21, 2002. It is founded on the 10-year Socioecononic Development Strategy and the 5-year Socioeconomic Development Plan. The CPRGS is based on extensive consultation led by MPI throughout Vietnam, including formal consultation in 6 provinces with over 1,800 participants that included officials, members of mass organizations, NGOs, academics and ordinary citizens, including the poor.

The CPRGS is also inspired by the Millennium Development Targets (MDTs) which Vietnam is committed. It, therefore, focuses attention on pro-poor growth and the need for a coordinated approach to future development that not only enlarges Vietnam's economy, but also continues to bring down the rate poverty. To be effective, the CPRGS must influence how Government addresses poverty and how donors align their support in a coordinated and supportive way.

MARD contributed significantly to the CPRGS despite some difficulties in doing so. The CPRGS process was in some ways imperfect because the time allowed to complete it was quite short making it difficult for sectoral agencies to participate fully. But those ifficulties were overcome by the hard work of MARD's 15-member CPRGS working group and its 4-person drafting team, which were supported by FAO and the World Bank.

The CPRGS is different from other development strategies because it focuses on pro-poor growth, has monitorable indicators, has costed programs, and will help align budgets to meet poverty reduction goals, MARD's input to the CPRGS is focused on three things, which are elaborated in MARD's input: increased rural income from broadly based growth reduced income disparities, risks and vulnerability, and improved food security and social well-being of the rural poor, and greater sustainability of natural resources in rural areas.

The next steps in the CPRGS process are to continue to refine indicators and costs, to translate targets into national programs and budgetary terms, and to seek external support for Government to achieve the CPRGS targets. The CPRGS will be reviewed and revised in three years time.

(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting).

Discussion:

8. Mr. Laslo Pancel, from GTZ: in the steps of preparation of the CPRGS, the environment concerns have not been intervolved in this process, and it was also missing in the agriculture strategy. How was it possible to ensure that quality standards, which ensure the production, processing and also trading in agricultural products, could be somehow ensured? How could this be taken into account in the CPRGS process?

9. Mr. Maurice Dewulf, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP: what efforts have been taken, not only to further refine the CPRGS, but in terms of revisiting the 10-year strategy of the Ministry, especially now that the CPRGS has been approved?

10. Mr. Richard Graves, Deputy Head of Mission, New Zealand Embassy: In terms of the CPRGS and economic integration, what is the appropriate future role of MARD? Presumably MARD will change from being involved directly in agricultural production to being a facilitator of agricultural and rural development by providing research, market
information and strategic planning. How do you see the wider reform agenda including MARD SOE reform, PAR and Public Expenditure Reform impact on MARD's changing role?

11. Mr. Andrew Jacobs, Counselor, European Union: EU recently produced its country strategy paper for Vietnam and donors' programmes. We are very keen to work together with MARD to identify how we can make sure what we do fit in the frame of CPRGS. With regards to the CPRGS, what are plans now to translate the CPRGS into an action plan for the rural development field? We are very keen to integrate our strategy into that.

12. Mr. Kuniaki Amatsu, Senior Project Formulation Advisor, JICA Vietnam: For the implementation of CPRGS, we consider it effective to mobilize the existing activities funded by the Government and ODA rather than to start new activities for that. In that sense, JICA, now, send various long-term experts to MARD and has on-going technical cooperation projects in the field of irrigation, agriculture cooperatives, agricultural machinery, veterinary, animal husbandry, Hanoi Agriculture University, and so on. Mobilizing these human resources, JICA is ready to join the CPRGS working group of MARD. As for the linkage between CPRGS and budgetary terms, donors need to discuss it more prudently and carefully. The reason are as follows: The Vietnamese government has their own existing strategy documents such as ten-year socio-economic development strategy, five-year socio-economic development strategy, sector development strategy, and sometimes, provincial-level development strategy. If there were some strategies that should be linked with budgetary terms, that should be the existing government strategy as the above mentioned, not CPRGS.

13. H.E Minister Le Huy Ngo: In our agriculture development strategy, the most general is that the period of quantity growth will be moved to period of quality growth, by applying science and technology, a very urgent task to Vietnam, shown by the 20-year long agriculture modernization program, including 10 years in the short term with the task to increase infrastructure of agriculture and rural areas, technology transfer to farmers, establishment of cooperatives, development of small and medium-scale enterprises, strong development of private and state sector. Particularly, the Government has a program to increase the knowledge for the rural people. This is an overall picture of the future agriculture a sector.

The urgent issue is the poverty reduction program. The poor in poor communes will benefit from the achievements from agriculture modernization, and at the same time be provided with special priorities from a national-level program. Due to the limit of the sate budget, MARD will firstly pay attention to 2300 of the most difficulty, accounting for 23% of the total communes and villages in Vietnam. Each commune and village will be provided with VND 1 billion per year to carry out the activities of their priorities: small irrigation systems, roads, small processing industry, schools, hospitals. The Prime Minister also call on the big enterprises of the nation, rich provinces to volunteer to take care of the areas of the most difficulty, poor communes, or to provide certain support at the request of the poor.

MARD, a part of the program, will try its best to carry out the assigned tasks. We hope that you will cooperate with MARD.

14. Dr. Dang Kim Son, MARD CPRGS Working Group: regarding environment issues in the CPRGS, this is the contribution from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. MARD also contribute issues regarding forestry, utilization of safe water sources for the farmers, issues regarding protection of water resources, lands and bio-diversity. These issues are mentioned in one separate item in the CPRGS framework. Significant parts of these contributions have been incorporated by MPI in the general strategy. The most important thing is that they should be shown in detailed in the action framework.

15. Mr. Hitoshi Ozawa, Development Counselor, Japanese Embassy: made some comments: CPRGS is the document created by the Government of Vietnam on its own initiative, for its own sake. Japanese Government would continue to support Vietnamese development according to the Vietnamese development plan in general, including CPRGS. Poverty reduction is very important, not the only objective of Vietnam.

16. Mr. Serge Snrech, First Secretary, Development, French Embassy: made comments on Mr. Gibbs's presentation: we suggested that we should work on evidence-based policy. More emphasis should be put on the problem of services, services for producers, traders, for small and medium enterprises. More emphasis should also be put on the institutional issue.

17. Mr. Nguyen The Dzung, from World Bank, what is the role MARD is expected to play in implementation of CPRGS outside of the administrative borders of MARD, given its mandate and the cross-ministerial and cross-level nature of many measures for rural poverty reduction and growth? What value-added assistance and coordination would MARD provide to provinces and other related ministries? What are the most important policies to be developed from MARD perspectives for the next three year? More pro-poor public expenditure review and Public Investment Planning shall be done in the agriculture and rural development. What are MARD plans regarding this issue?

18. Ms. Patricia Weisenfeld, Technical Advisor, MARD Committee for the Advancement of Women, Asian Development Bank Project : gender equity is a key factor in the development process, the reduction of poverty and sustainable growth. . Gender equity is fundamental to achieving agricultural and rural development goals. The CPRGS provides an excellent framework for moving to gender equity, monitoring progress and demonstrating the impact of gender equitable practices and policies on the achievement of national development goals.

19. Ms. Shireen Sandhu, First Secretary, Australian Embassy: Australian embassy is in the early stage of developing their country program strategy that will centrally focus on governance and rural development sector. This is the opportunity for the embassy to work with MARD and the Government to ensure that their strategy is in line with the CPRGS, its priorities and with the Government's policies. We would like to know the process of formulating CPRGS unit in MARD and the role of the unit in terms of implementing the CPRGS.

20. H.E Minister Le Huy Ngo: regarding MARD's role in the CPRGS, MARD is assigned to develop agriculture and create income for the poor. We have four big solutions:

  • How can the poor get land for production.
  • Credit policy for the poor.
  • Technology transfer to the poor, particularly the transfer of best seeds and breeds.
  • Organize various forms of farmers' voluntary association so that the experienced can help the poor in their production and marketing products.

21. Mr. Brian Doolan, Country Director of CARE International in Vietnam, made a presentation on "Rural development for poverty reduction", with the main contents as follows:

  • In accepting the challenges laid down in the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy, MARD has a central role to play. The policies and practices of this Ministry directly affect the lives of every person living in Vietnam and impact every day on the lives of the overwhelming majority who live and work in rural areas. In the struggle to reduce poverty MARD should aim to become known as the advocate for the poor. This means not only working to reduce poverty, but also recognising that MARD has an obligation to stand up for those who remain poor until there are none left to stand up for.
  • Officials and agents of MARD deal every day with vital issues such as market integration, commodity production, natural resource protection and disaster mitigation. The issues are large, important and often complex. So it is all the more important to be clear that the focus of the work of MARD is to benefit the landless peasant and the ethnic minority farmer struggling to feed their family in a remote mountain village. It is to support the communities plagued by floods and storms who annually see their work washed away or destroyed and who are always worried about how they will be able to afford education and health care for their children. If the focus of MARD is not on the poorest rural people in Vietnam, then all the best efforts of the Ministry and its officers will be of benefit to a few but do harm to many others.
  • In the context of global integration, the state has a clear role in promoting diversification and in ensuring standards of quality are met. It is appropriate where necessary and with appropriate targets that the state provide production subsidies for limited periods and provide economic support to boost non-farm economic activities in rural areas. It is the role of the state to ensure people are informed and able to participate in decisions which affect their lives, to provide support to communities affected by disasters and to lead and to actively participate in the development of national and regional strategies aimed at reducing poverty and supporting the poor. It is also true that the state has an important role in addressing international issues which will impact on individual farmers, issues such as the development of Intellectual Property Rights, and in ensuring better access to markets including fighting against unfair and unsustainable barriers put up by some OECD countries.

He also told the forum about grassroots democracy, civil society, cooperatives, poverty and the environment; and HIV/AIDS.

(This paper was circulated to all the participants at the meeting)

22. Mr. Tapani Ruotsalainen, Vietnam-Finland Forestry Sector Co-operation Programme: in the coming action program, the most important thing is that the land use planning and land allocation issue should be addressed. The provinces' involvement and participation are also needed. We should emphasize the strengthening of extension organizations, including establishment of provincial-level vocational training facilities for the extension people. Since technology transfer is advocated here, qualified staff is needed. Technology advancement requires continued updated skills. The process for the action plan preparation should be commented by provinces, otherwise they would not be able to implement the plan on the ground.

23. Ms. Nguyen Phuoc Binh Thanh, from Netherlands embassy: has MARD had any plans to disseminate information regarding the CPRGS to its Departments and Institutes? has MARD had any plans to coordinate with the Ministry of Trade to address the issue of market need related information provided for farmers?

24. H.E Minister Le Huy Ngo: poverty and lands are closely related to each other. Good conditions are always provided by the Government for the poor to get lands for production. We plan to expand lands to provide the poor; provides conditions for those who are able to work to come to the new economic zones to start production. The most important is how they can keep the lands for their production. In fact, due to difficulties in daily life, some of the people have to transfer their land use right to others. This clearly shows the important role of credit to the poor, particularly the role of farmers' associations. This is a very big issue in the advocation of reducing poverty for the farmers. MARD very much understand your concerns regarding establishment of rural cooperatives. The State has just had a resolution regarding renovation and development of rural cooperatives, which will provide services for rural areas.

The Ministry of Trade is assigned by the Government to be responsible for general trade policies. MARD is assigned to take care of the production and consumption of products for the farmers. MARD has established a centre for promotion of agro-products with in MARD. We also have an action program regarding this issue. During this process, we receive much support from the Ministry of Trade.

Regarding CPRGS information task: MARD has the Information Center (ICARD), which is responsible for synthesising information of poverty reduction, general program of the Government, programs of MARD. In MARD programs, tasks and duties are clearly defined to each Department. And the leaders of those Departments will have to use that information to carrying out their tasks. You can be ensured about the dissemination of information in MARD.

25. Mr. J. A. Colwell, from FAO in Vietnam, made a presentation in which he discussed some issues related to the implementation of the CPRGS, with some main comments as follows:

  • FAO has been pleased to support MARD in making inputs to the CPRGS. The MARD CPRGS Working Group is now recognized as one of the leading line Ministry partnerships, which will ensure that MARD plays an important role in the implementation of the CPRGS. Following a request from MARD, FAO is planning to implement a project to strengthen the capacity of MARD to coordinate donor support to the CPRGS. The project will help MARD establish a CPRGS Support Unit to be the focal point for implementing the CPRGS within MARD. The aim will be to build the capacity in MARD to identify, formulate, prioritise, implement and monitor Government and donor funded projects.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the CPRGS is an important task. There are already various information related activities under way in MARD. For example, FAO is assisting MARD in establishing a Food Security Information Unit to monitor the food security situation in Vietnam. The Unit will prepare an annual food security status report presenting the various food security indicators, many of which are the same as for the CPRGS. The various information activities in MARD should be coordinated within the overall framework of the CPRGS.
  • FAO continues to be concerned about food insecurity in rural areas and is pleased to see the attention given to this in the CPRGS document.

Meeting wrap-up:

26. H.E Minsiter Le Huy Ngo felt there was a great concern and support from you to this meeting. There were 62 organizations and agencies participating in this meeting, a very big number. This showed our shared concern to the fate of the poor.

He was very honoured to be reminded about the tasks, role of MARD, and about donors' trust on MARD. This was very natural due to the fact that most of the poor live in rural areas. The Ministry very much thank the stakeholders and would try to work to response to their expectations.

The Ministry would report to the Prime Minister about donors' concern to this program and to MARD.

Over the past time, MARD has cooperated with donors in many programs/projects such as the 5 Million Hectare reforestation program, natural disaster mitigation program, and poverty reduction program. He felt the cooperation was of effectiveness. He hoped that in the process of CPRGS, the cooperation would be greater. MARD would complete policies regarding poverty reduction, institutionalise action programs, consolidate the working group, and particularly update and disseminate information of poverty reduction.

He thanked the participants. He hoped that the cooperation would be more and more effective. And he requested if the participants would have any questions from MARD' side, MARD would be pleased to answer.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)
(Signed)
Le Huy Ngo

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