Rural Women in Vietnam Face Scarcity of Jobs and Climate Disruption

It’s 5:00 am and I wake up to the sounds of rural Vietnam – the neighborhood roosters are having a crow-off, dogs and birds in the area are eagerly trying to participate, and my roommate the gecko calls out letting me know he was successful in protecting me from mosquitoes overnight. There is a gentle rain falling on the leaves and ground below.

I’m in the province of Nam Dinh with PISA (Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia, an organization based out of The George Washington University). We are here to interview the women of the Giao Lac commune about how their lives are impacted by the changing climate. The traditional livelihood of these families is rice farming, but as they experience challenges from climate change, they need to develop strategies to adapt.

In this coastal province, sea-level rise poses a major threat, as it will increase inundation and salinity along coastal regions. As water level increases, saltwater encroaches farther inland threatening the rice fields that they maintain. The future of rice farming in the region could be a major blow to already shrinking job opportunities for women. The women are using a traditional method to combat salt intrusion, mixing limestone into the soil to leach out salt. It's a strategy that one of the older women told me was taught to her by her parents years ago, but is only now being reintroduced.

Another adaptation strategy in the community is climate migration. A young woman told me that many of her friends have migrated to cities like Hanoi to find new jobs and avoid the struggle of farming.

Several organizations are looking for ways to keep residents in the area. The Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) is looking at a variety of solutions, from community-based eco-tourism, to sustainable oyster raising, earth worm raising and community-based mangrove forest conservation.

Still, climate migration is happening and is often easier for men. The women in the community told me that men who migrate find work in construction whereas women do housework or waste management. It’s the women at home who often suffer as they have less freedom to leave and need to stay in the community to care for their children. (Both of the younger women in the province that I spoke to have children younger than two years old). Urban migration is also an impossibility for the older women in the community. They were up and working in the rice fields as early as the sun would allow.

Follow my trip to Vietnam with the hashtag #inthefield!

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