More than 900 ethnic minority households in Muong Lat District escape from poverty
Global Environment Facility helps preserve indigenous knowledge and natural resources
Ha Noi, June 2014 – More than 900 ethnic minority households in Viet Nam’s central coastal province of Thanh Hoa have escaped poverty and had their lives enriched thanks to a UNDP-backed project to recover a traditional occupation and use of a natural resource for application in a wide range of industries.
These Dao, Kho Mu, Mong and Thai ethnic households in Muong Lat district now each earn VND90-160 million (USD4,300-7,600) per year from cultivating lac insects with the support of the UNDP’s Small Grant Programme funded by the Global Environment Facility.
The little known lac insect- Kerria Lacca- provides excretions that can be processed to produce shellac found in more than 1,000 items produced in 30 industrial sectors, according to India’s Lac Research Institute. Shellac is used as an ingredient in food coloring, preservation of fruit and coffee beans as well as in wood finishing vanishes and polishes, electricity and thermo insulating paint and music discs. It can even be found in the health sector, such as in denture frames and pharmaceutical capsules. Shellac is also used to produce self-decomposing plastic bags to replace environmental-polluting polyethylene ones.
In Thanh Hoa, cultivating Kerria Lacca is a traditional occupation for ethnic minority people in Muong Lac district. In the 1970s and 80s, the district planted thousands of hectares of alum palm trees and provided tons of lac gum per year to the Soviet Union. However, the industry collapsed with the break-up of the Soviet bloc, with hectares of alum palm trees chopped down for firewood and even burned off for cultivation.
Since 2007, the project “Recovering and developing Kerria Lacca cultivating occupation of ethnic minorities in Muong Lat district”, carried out by the Union of Science and Technology Associations in the province, has helped recover and preserve the occupation, contributing to preserving indigenous knowledge, protecting watershed forests as well as creating sustainable livelihoods for sustainable poverty reduction for ethnic minorities in the province’s mountainous border area.
After six years’ implementation, the project has built management and technology capacity for nearly 7,000 Dao, Kho Mu, Mong and Thai ethnic people as well as planted short-term trees in areas facing desertification, planted perennial trees, built two models to store higher quality Kerria Lacca for breeding purposes and developed a master plan to raise the lac insect in a 530 hectare area in the district.
The project has achieved these results through activities, such as building of models to demonstrate advanced skills to preserve Kerria Lacca and provide such skills training to complement traditional skills and form peer groups for sharing among families in the district. These skills are documented by the project publication “Guide to cultivating Kerria Lacca in Muong Lat district” for use by the district’s Kerria Lacca’s cultivating community.
The project has also contributed to replicating the Kerria Lacca cultivating model in other mountainous districts in Thanh Hoa province as well as provinces that have favorable ecological conditions such as Dien Bien, Nghe An and Son La through organizing experience sharing workshops, visits to demonstration models and studies of processing and consumption markets. The project’s recommendation report on policy and markets for Kerria Lacca cultivating in Thanh Hoa province has also left a meaningful legacy with the inclusion of the Kerria Lacca cultivating occupation in the Provincial People’s Committee policy on forestry economic development in mountain districts.
The project is part of the UNDP’s Small Grant Program funded by the Global Environment Facility. Similar projects are being funded by the Danish Embassy, the World Bank and Care International.
Nguyen Viet Lan, UN Communication Team
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