Optimizing All Resources for Rural Development

10:01:56 AM | 11/16/2023

Cao Bang, being a mountainous and border province with a low initial development point, unsynchronized infrastructure, limited investment resources, and underdeveloped production in many regions, encounters numerous challenges in the implementation of the New Rural Areas Program. However, driven by a resolute commitment to transcend its circumstances, Cao Bang has introduced various mechanisms and policies while taking an in-depth, quality-focused, and sustainable approach to enhance rural development, all the while mobilizing resources effectively.

Cao Bang province faces challenges in implementing the New Rural Areas Program, requiring strategic solutions

Harnessing all available resources

The endeavor to build new rural areas encompasses all facets of socio-economic life within rural regions. Cao Bang province has issued decisions to endorse a list of district and commune-level units striving to attain New Rural Area standards, advanced New Rural Areas, and model New Rural Areas for the 2021-2025 period. The province is directing localities to chart roadmaps intending to steer communes that have met basic standards toward achieving advanced New Rural Area status and, ultimately, model New Rural Area designation. Cao Bang has also launched thematic programs focused on building new rural areas for the 2021-2025 period. These programs include "One Commune One Product" (OCOP), the digital transformation program in the context of building new rural areas geared towards smart rural areas, and a program aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of security and order criteria in the context of new rural construction and rural tourism development.

The province has rallied the entire political system to partake in this endeavor, emphasizing the importance of conducting propaganda and advocacy efforts, especially in communes striving to meet New Rural Area standards. Cao Bang province has allocated VND335.925 billion to implement the National Target Program for building new rural areas. This allocation supports the restructuring of the agricultural sector and the development of the rural economy. The province is actively implementing the OCOP Program to enhance added value, all while adapting to the processes of digital transformation and climate change resilience, fostering rural industries, and enhancing the operational effectiveness of cooperatives. Mr. Nong Van Thanh from Chi Vien commune in Trung Khanh district, reported that most of the roads in the commune have been improved to facilitate the transport of agricultural products, ultimately fostering economic growth and improving the livelihoods of residents.

However, the National Target Program for building new rural areas faces a multitude of challenges in achieving its goals and objectives. While certain criteria such as irrigation and natural disaster prevention have achieved relatively high rates of success, criteria concerning income, multidimensional poverty, production organization, environment, and food safety have achieved lower results, despite their fundamental significance. These criteria are pivotal, given that the ultimate objective of building new rural areas is to enhance the well-being of rural communities. The economic stability and sustainability of rural inhabitants are pivotal, as this allows them to contribute to the development of new rural areas.

The difficulties faced in resource mobilization for implementing New Rural Area criteria are exacerbated by a limited state budget allocation, which includes integrated capital from other programs and projects, that falls short of the actual needs. Additionally, the allocation mechanism for this period differs from previous periods. There is also a disconnect between building new rural areas and the agricultural sector's restructuring. Furthermore, the quality and operational capacity of agricultural cooperatives are still underdeveloped. Infrastructure remains inadequate for the province's developmental requirements, while agricultural and forestry sectors' production levels do not align with the province's potential. This is largely due to the small-scale nature of agricultural production in the province, resulting in a limited number of OCOP products. A survey and preliminary assessment by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development revealed that, at the conclusion of the New Rural Areas program, the entire province had only around 150 products officially recognized as OCOP, averaging approximately 10 products per commune. The province has also struggled to attract investment in its agricultural sector.

Developing cooperatives and linking production is a key direction for Cao Bang province’s sustainable agriculture

Leveraging the power of cooperative economics

To achieve the goal of having two districts and 50 communes reach New Rural Area standards, with no communes falling short of meeting at least 15 criteria by 2025, Cao Bang province must drive cooperative economic models intertwined with value chains. Mr. Hoang Van Tu, the Director of An Lai Cooperative, revealed that the cooperative focuses on the preliminary processing of arrowroot raw materials and the production of finished arrowroot vermicelli products. These products are processed, packaged, and adhere to rigorous food safety and hygiene standards, thereby meeting the exacting requirements of affiliated distributors. The cooperative has invested in a range of machinery, including washing machines, circulating dryers, canna starch grinding and filtering machines, and automatic dry starch grinding machines. Additionally, a 500 m2 production facility was recently completed to facilitate high-quality, large-scale production. The cooperative plays an instrumental role in generating employment for over 10 full-time workers and 20 seasonal laborers, with an average monthly income ranging from VND5-7 million per person.

Mr. Dam Van Do, Chairman of the Provincial Cooperative Alliance, affirmed the role of agricultural cooperatives in the development of new rural areas. In recent times, the province has introduced numerous policies to support cooperative development. The Provincial Cooperative Alliance has aided nearly 300 cooperatives in accessing markets, identifying key products, offering loans for expanding production, and establishing brands and product labels. They have also organized 21 training sessions and initiatives to train and develop human resources. The Cooperative Development Support Fund has provided 3.8 billion VND in support to cooperatives within the province for investment in production and business.

In the future, the province will continue to promote the establishment and replication of cooperative economic models linked with value chains, stimulating the process of building new rural areas while aligning with the successful execution of industry restructuring projects and the improvement of the material and spiritual well-being of rural residents. The province will actively implement the "One Commune One Product" Program, focusing on developing OCOP products and investing in production areas. The province aims to encourage the growth of organic and sustainable agriculture and green agriculture. These measures will harness the synergies of cooperatives to further contribute to the development and enhancement of rural infrastructure, with a focus on building a form of production organization that meets the requirements of Criterion No. 13.

By Dinh Bao, Vietnam Business Forum