Bui Van Ngoan comes from a family of pepper farmers. Like his father and the generations before him, Ngoan also learned how to farm at an early age. Now at 51 years old, Ngoan looks after his own pepper farm which he started almost 30 years ago in Vietnam’s Binh Phuoc Province.
Vietnam’s pepper industry is booming. With its pepper being exported to almost 100 countries across the world, Vietnam has quickly become the world’s leading exporter of pepper. However, the rapid growth of this industry resulted in poor food safety practices and standards.
Most pepper producers are smallholder farmers, like Ngoan. Situated a few hundred meters from Ngoan’s home is Bui Van Lam’s pepper farm. Lam was able to send his 5 children to school with the money he earns from pepper farming. However, maintaining his farm’s operations was not easy. He struggled with hiring harvesters because labor is expensive. Likewise fertilizers cost too much. There are also frequent instances of drought in recent years. All of these factors resulted to very poor income. Lam recalled, “When we first started planting pepper, it was as easy as planting sweet potato. But today, it requires a lot of care for peppers to grow.”
Another farmer, Nguyen Huy Luong, faced the same challenges. Due to frequent drought and chemical residue in the soil that destroyed the harvest, Luong had to cultivate his farm three times. Sadly, he said “the plants were just dying one after another.”
Seeing the need to help farmers like Ngoan, Lam, and Luong meet global market standards, ASSIST Vietnam and NedSpice, with co-financing from Eurofins and KFW DEG, implemented the project SAFE PEPPER
(Sustainable Agricultural and Food Safety Excellence for Pepper in Vietnam). The project aims to increase the quantity and quality of pepper production by raising awareness of smallholder farmers on food safety practices and quality standards through comprehensive technical trainings and assistance on topics such as proper planting methods, sustainable use of fertilizers, and application of new technologies.
Luong, Ngoan and Lam are among the many farmers who benefitted from this project. By improving the quality of their crops to meet the demands of the global market, they will now earn more. Likewise, by using new technologies and practicing sustainable farming, they can now reduce their losses caused by unhealthy and uncultivable soil.
Ngoan said happily, “My peppers are now guaranteed to be of good quality!” He hopes that this project can also be implemented in other regions to help more small farmers earn better income.