Belgian students and teachers visit Vietnam to learn about organic vegetables

Belgian students and teachers visit Vietnam to learn about organic vegetables

15/07/2016
in News
Charlotte Flechet
Charlotte Flechet
Food Smart Cities coordinator

Belgian volunteers have arrived in Hanoi for a two-week mission in preparation for the 2017 VECO Belgium fundraising campaign. Follow their journey as they travel across northern Vietnam to document and learn about organic vegetable production and inclusive businesses.

On Tuesday 12 July, 5 teachers and 6 students from Belgium, accompanied by An Kindermans, a volunteers’ coordinator and fundraising officer from VECO Belgium, arrived in Hanoi for a two-week visit across the country.

The participants are bound for an unforgettable journey, packed with field visits to VECO project sites, sightseeing activities, and authentic exchanges with Vietnamese farmers. Most importantly, they will make a video to document VECO and its partners’ work with organic farmers.

Getting to know VECO Vietnam's work

As explained by An “We are not only here for a vacation, but we are on a mission to learn more about VECO Vietnam, its projects and Vietnamese culture. We will then go back home and share the stories and lessons that we’ve learned.” As teachers (or soon-to-be teachers), the participants will prepare lessons to share insights from their trip with their students back home, hoping to raise awareness on the issues of safe & sustainable agriculture and decent income for smallholder farmers.

After having spent their first day strolling around Hanoi and getting their bearings in their new environment, the group visited VECO Vietnam’s office on Wednesday for an introduction to the work of the organisation. They learned about VECO’s work in the tea, rice, cocoa and vegetables sectors, and were introduced to VECO Vietnam’s latest innovation, the Safe & Organic Food Finder (SOFF), an online platform that helps consumers find safe and organic stores in the city. They had the chance to experiment the SOFF app, hands on, in the afternoon, as they used it to visit various stores that sell safe and organic food.

An inspiring movie to showcase organic farmers' work

The group is now in Ha Nam province to meet the farmers from the Trac Van Collaborative Group who have recently engaged in organic farming, complying with the rules of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). PGS is a quality assurance standard for organic and safe vegetables that has proven to be a viable, more simple and cheaper alternative to third-party certifications which are often inaccessible to smallholder farmers.

The students and teachers will spend three days with the farmers to try to understand how PGS works in terms of vegetable production, harvesting, packaging, and inspection rules. They will produce a video to showcase the benefits of this alternative farming approach for the farmers and their environment, as well as the results that have been achieved as part of this VECO project. Back in Belgium, the video will be used to support fundraising activities during VECO Belgium’s 2017 annual fundraising campaign.

Raising awareness for more sustainable food systems

Next week, the group will travel to Phu Tho province to discover VECO’s work on sustainably produced tea. They will be immersed in the life of the LUSOTEC cooperative, VECO’s partner, as they will help pick up fresh tea leaves and observe how they are processed.

This experience is a unique opportunity for the participants to learn from the farmers and VECO’s work in Vietnam. Once they return home, they will become active ambassadors of VECO, raising funds and awareness on the importance of transforming our food systems to make them more sustainable. Not only from the environmental standpoint, but also by making sure that the products we buy contribute to paying a decent income to family farmers and to building stronger communities.

This is what VECO believes in and this is what the participants are here to discover first hand.

Follow our Facebook page for more regular information on their activities and experience.