Viet Nam

The image of the fast growing economy, the rich biodiversity and the many colorful ethnic groups in Vietnam stand in stark contrast to poverty among rural and ethnic populations, and the limited access to and control over land and natural resources. The work of ICCO in Vietnam (as part of the Mekong area) focuses on democratization while empowering small producers to participate in sustainable enterprises.

Regional Office South East Asia

  • Jl. Tukad Batang Hari IX no.8
    Panjer - Denpasar 80225

  • +62 361 895 58 01
Send us an email
  • 54 ethnic groups live in Vietnam 
  • 91 million inhabitants
  • Rice is most important crop

General Information

Vietnam with its tropical lowlands, forested highlands, and 39.000 km2 Mekong Delta, has a rich biodiversity hosting unique flora, fauna and animals.  With 91 million inhabitants, Vietnam is the 8th most populous country in Asia. The country is home to 54 ethnic groups; the Viet or Kinh is the dominant social and ethnic group (around 86% of the population), therefore possessing most political and economic influence in the country. The official language is Vietnamese, which is spoken by the majority of the population. However, minority groups speak a variety of languages. The diversity of Vietnam’s inhabitants is also demonstrated in the religious backgrounds; about 45% adheres to indigenous religions, 16% to Buddhism, 8% to Christianity, 0.5% to other religions, and 30% isn’t religious.

For the past decade, Vietnam’s economy has been among the highest in the world. This is mainly due to government reforms encouraging private ownership, raw material export, economic deregulation and foreign investments, causing a strong growth in agricultural and industrial production, export and foreign investments. The Mekong Delta and the Red River Delta, where most of the country’s population lives, are central to Vietnam’s social and economic growth.  Vietnam exports technology, mining products and natural resources like crude oil, but 22% of the country’s GDP is dedicated to agriculture. The agriculture sector also accounts for 30% of country’s exports and 52% of all employment.  Vietnam is a world player in the export of cashew, black pepper, coffee and rice, and exports also fishery products, tea and rubber.  Throughout history, wet rice agriculture has been at the economic base of Vietnam and the country is one of the biggest rice exporters of the world.

Extreme poverty has declined significantly due to economic growth, post 1986 political and economic reform programs and support from the international community. However, still 11.3% lives below the poverty line (2012) and there are still challenges to face to fight poverty and eradicate hunger. Especially for the most vulnerable. The majority of the rural poor people are small-scale farmers or landless people with limited possibilities for employment outside agriculture, limited access to more populated areas and public or financial services. They face harsh climates, climate change and natural disasters in the rural, isolated or mountainous areas.  Malnutrition is also still common in the rural provinces of Vietnam.

Land, forest and maritime areas in Vietnam are administered by the state, which has legally the right to re-allocate land used by citizens for purposes like national defense and security, public interest and economic development. In the majority of the cases, land from farming households is re-allocated to develop industrial zones. According to a research conducted by CODE, 90% of forest land is managed by (state owned) enterprises. That means the ethnic communities only manage 10%. The conflicts in Vietnam related to land, are caused by competing interests for agricultural land and forest land, and differing land practices between private companies and ethnic communities. Ethnic communities are disproportionately likely to experience poverty.

Themes in Viet Nam

The work of ICCO in Vietnam (as part of the Mekong area) focuses on democratization while empowering small producers to participate in sustainable enterprises.  Main themes are food security and responsible business, with a cross cutting theme of protecting land rights & natural resources.

We work with the vulnerable populations: ethnic minorities, poor rural farmers and people who lost their land.  We also work together with social entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Expertise in Viet Nam

ICCO has been in Vietnam since the 1980s. Centered on indigenous and poor people our program has made significant contributions to the empowerment of people to assert their economic, social and civil rights. These democratic gains are the foundations of our current programs. We support indigenous and poor people to have better access to and control over natural resources, especially land and forest. And we stimulate producers and entrepreneurs to improve their position in local, national and international market structures. 

In Vietnam, ICCO Cooperation South East Asia makes use of the following interlinked approaches and models:

Lobby and advocacy

In our lobby activities, we build bridges between our beneficiaries, CSOs, governments, businesses and NGOs. We work on unequal (power)relations and give a voice to the most vulnerable and excluded groups. In Vietnam, ICCO Cooperation and her partners publish researches, build sustainable economic models, raise awareness and build capacity among these groups, as means and tools in our lobby work.

Markets for the Poor (M4P)

The M4P approach aims to transform market structures by increasing the participation of the poor, and to make the market more beneficial and sustainable for them. In Vietnam, M4P is the leading approach.

Value Chain Development (VCD)

We focus on empowering small producers and marginalized groups by connecting them to viable and sustainable value chains and its actors, to generate income and improve food security.

Business Incubation & Impact Investment

Through our investments programs, ICCO contributes to fair economic development in emerging economies. ICCO provides conditional capital (such as loans, equity and guarantees), by ‘blending’ financial instruments. Our Business Incubator Program (AgriBusiness Booster) provides capacity and capital to small and medium enterprises and farmer cooperatives, for them to grow and develop into strong and independent enterprises.

ICCO Cooperation in a nutshell

Our projects in Viet Nam

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