Role models for women’s economic empowerment

Role models for women’s economic empowerment

Meet Mrs Nguyen Thi Kim Lien, a 41 year-old woman with two children, one son and one daughter. Together with her husband, she runs a mushroom cooperative in Quang Binh province.

Around 10 years ago, Mrs. Lien’s father-in-law suffered from a disease called lymphomas. One of her neighbours told her about the Lingzhi drink, a medicinal fungus that could help cure the disease. As this led to a high demand of mushrooms in the family, she came up with the idea to plant and grow mushrooms herself.

With the growing economy and people changing their food preferences as a result, she saw the demand for fresh mushrooms increase and expected this growth to continue. She started growing Lingzhi on her 100 m2 piece of land and studied how to grow new sorts of mushrooms from neighbouring provinces. Strongly believing she could scale her business, at the beginning of 2016, Mrs. Lien established Tuan Linh clean mushroom production and agribusiness cooperative together with her husband.

In one year, the production area expanded to 8,000 m2 and the cooperative produced 102 tons of mushrooms with a total revenue of 400,000 EUR. The cooperative now works with 15 farmer groups to further increase its supply. The business model is inclusive: they produce and sell mushroom grow kits to the farmer groups, which enables low-income households to grow mushrooms close to their house and thereby earn an extra income. When the mushrooms are fully grown, the farmer groups sell part of their yield at local markets. The remaining yield goes back to the cooperative for processing (eg drying and packaging) after which it is sold at regional and national markets. Mrs. Lien is now inspiring more women in her community to join the mushroom value chain.

Different actors and steps in the mushroom value chain in Quang Binh province

Different actors and steps in the mushroom value chain in Quang Binh province

Mrs. Lien lives in an area where most people earn an income from agricultural activities, mainly from rice production. Many farmers in the area have been affected by changes in climate (eg drought or flooding) and saw a reduction in their crop yields and their incomes. As mushrooms are grown on shelves, they are not affected by climate change and are a stable income alternative. In addition, growing mushrooms doesn't require a lot of land and is not labour intensive.

Both Mrs. Lien and her husband earn an income for their family and they equally share the chores at home. By balancing workload and benefits, they are becoming role models for the community.

Tuan Linh Mushroom cooperative was selected as partner of the 'Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises' (EOWE) programme, seeking to leverage the mushroom value chain and advance women's economic empowerment in Quang Binh province. By selling grow kits to women-led business groups in all districts in Quang Binh, the partnership aims to increase the number of women/households in the mushroom value chain from 230 to 1,500 and the number of business groups from 15 to 50. The cooperative especially supports remote ethnic minority groups, low-income households and households affected by climate change and/or environmental crises.

The EOWE programme is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) window. The goal of the project is to advance women’s economic participation and self-reliance in Kenya and Vietnam by creating a conducive environment for female entrepreneurship. In Vietnam, the programme is developing women's capacity to run successful and viable businesses, while challenging gender inequitable norms within households and communities. This is accompanied by advocacy activities that aim to influence (local) government actors to develop and implement gender sensitive policies in the four selected target provinces: Quang Binh, Binh Dinh, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan.

Learn more about Mrs. Lien's mushroom business in this factsheet__.