Enda Vietnam has been developing an integrated rural development program for different ethnic minorities groups in four provinces: Gia Lai, Daklak, Quang Ngai, and Phu Yen. During the period 1997 –2002 with the financial support of CORDAID. Different types of local partners have been selected to test the proper institutional arrangement for such rural projects. They were the Rubber Company in Gia Lai to promote home-based rubber plantation, Gardening Association and District Agricultural and Rural Development Department in Daklak to promote integrated rural community development, Provincial Department of Science, Technology and Environment together with District Agricultural Extension Station in Quang Ngai and Youth Voluntary Professional of Provincial Youth Association and District Agricultural Extension Station in Phu Yen. Technical assistance was provided by Enda Vietnam in cooperation with local consultants from the Tay Nguyen University.
The program aimed at providing more sustainable farming systems, social forestry, raising people’s awareness on health, sanitation and other social issues, creating on-site technical services and building up the community capacity in problem identification and solving process. The project also aimed at transferring to local counterparts and networking a new approach to rural development where participatory and community-based elements were emphasized. The participatory rural development was intensively introduced by INGOs in the Northern Provinces of Vietnam but few in the Central provinces given the skeptical attitude of provincial authorities and the political sensitiveness toward ethnic minority in these areas.
Although the pilot program was appreciated by local partners, the projects in Central Highland especially in Gia Lai has confronted with substantial difficulties to replicate and expand due to the restriction policy for INGO operation of the provincial authorities after the political disturbance in March 2001.
In the new phase Enda Vietnam direction is to experiment the formulation of farmer-to-farmer based agricultural extension system together with the creation of village-based farming support services in order to expand participatory agricultural extension to benefit a larger population where the governmental extension system could not reach due to the restricted number of formal extension workers and their weak capacity in working with ethnic minority groups. The scope of project areas will be limited in the mountainous areas of the two coastal provinces of Quang Ngai and Phu Yen where the provincial authorities are much more open and ready to cooperate.