Programme Index Listing

Main implementer
Cowater International in association with Whitelum Group
Other implementers
Lao Cai Project Management Unit / Son La Project Management Unit
DFAT Australia
2017 - 2021
Total budget
USD $25.4 million
Annual budget
USD $6.35 million

Project description / objective

The GREAT Programme works with the private sector, government agencies and NGOs in Vietnam to create opportunities for women within the agriculture and tourism sectors. GREAT promotes gender equality and women’s economic empowerment with a focus on the ethnically diverse provinces of Son La and Lao Cai in north-west Vietnam.

Market systems focus


Climate, soil and land availability in Vietnam’s north-west provide favourable conditions for year-round vegetable production. This creates important economic opportunities to supply Hanoi and the Red River Delta during the summer months.

Growing vegetables that meet certification requirements can generate two to five times more income than rice and maize. However, access to essential inputs such as seeds and seedlings is problematic. Many farmers are not confident to diversify beyond traditional low-earning crops.


GREAT is working with private sector partners to capitalise on the increasing global demand for tea, and to also ensure women in Son La and Lao Cai reap the benefits.

Ethnic minority women are actively involved in cultivating, harvesting and processing of tea, but traditional subsistence-based production struggles to achieve commercial yields.

The focus is on diversifying varieties – such as Sencha and Matcha tea for premium Japanese and European export markets, and enhancing quality to meet VietGAP and international standards.

Financial services

GREAT’s research found that 60 per cent of vegetable and passion fruit producers and 33 per cent of tea producers in Son La are seeking finance. Ethnic-minority women farmers, in particular, tend to rely on informal sources of finance and struggle to access credit to optimise production.

A key reason for this difficulty is the requirement for borrowers to provide a land title certificate when applying for bank loans. Only 22 per cent of surveyed tea producer households, for instance, have such a certificate. Many banks are reluctant to lend to small-scale farmers given the lack of collateral, high transaction costs of setting up relatively small loans, and because they lack the technical capacity to assess and monitor risk and understand farmer needs and cash flows.


Vietnam is the third largest cinnamon producer globally, with a long history of cinnamon exports. Analysis shows significant room for further growth, provided there are improvements in quality assurance and supply of seedlings and other inputs.

Translating growth into better prices for farmers requires greater awareness of export quality requirements, and better connections between farmers and markets to enable the transfer of technical skills and information.

Tourism skills

Prior to COVID-19 the tourism sector had a growing demand for skilled and semi-skilled staff. In some communities however, tourism is not seen as a suitable career path for ethnic minority women due to negative perceptions of the hospitality industry.

Education levels of ethnic minority women (including low literacy in both Kinh and English) are also a barrier to formal employment in the sector. GREAT estimate 29 per cent of target women beneficiaries had no formal education.

Programme interventions


Seedling nurseries
Working with the private sector to develop nurseries to generate an ongoing, reliable and trusted source of seeds and seedlings.

New business models
Business models that embed technical assistance to farmers in off-take agreements.

Access to finance
Access to finance to invest in vegetable production at a household level.


Upgrading production
Transforming traditional tea cultivation to meet export standards such as Global GAP, organic, Rainforest Alliance.

Input services
Introducing centralised pesticide control services and supply of biofertilisers to increase productivity and quality.

Support services
Ensuring that both public and private support services are tailored to meet the specific needs of women including access to finance and training for group leaders.

Financial services

Collateral-free lending
Trial of collateral-free lending to farmers based on cash flow modelling and risk profiling of farmers within targeted value chains.

Value-chain lending
Work with the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies to introduce value-chain lending in Lao Cai for targeted ethnic-minority families.

Financial literacy
Financial literacy training for women and capacity-building for the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies in gender-lens investing.


Support services
Establishing quality support services for farmers including seedling supplies and training.

Organic certification
Establish organic cultivation, harvesting and processing of cinnamon with farming households

Tourism Skills

Curriculum development
Introducing a six-month training course for ethnic-minority women that is based on industry demand and aligns with international standards.

Working with the provincial government to support local on-site tour guide training and certification that does not require tertiary qualifications.

Organisational strengthening
Strengthen destination management organisations to support upskilling of the local tourism industry and communities.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)


  • Over 3,100 women gaining access to productive inputs or resources
  • 365 ha of new vegetable production area established
  • 9 new nurseries established
  • 9.9 million seedlings produced and distributed


  • Over 3,100 women gaining access to productive inputs or resources
  • Organic tea production areas expanded to 1447 ha

Financial services

  • MoU signed with The Vietnam Bank for Social Policies and LienVietPostBank
  • New financial products developed.


  • Training over 2,500 women
  • Organic cinnamon production areas expanded to 3,400 ha
  • 235 new jobs created for local women

Tourism skills

  • Training over 3,800 women
  • Over 385 women gaining access to productive inputs or resources
  • Onsite tour guide training available to local women

[uploaded December 2020]