Nhem and her community belong to the Muong ethnic group in Hoa Binh, Vietnam. They were displaced from their traditional lands to make way for a new hydro-electric dam and were struggling to grow food or earn money in their new home of Da Bia – a remote lakeside village.
In 2015, Nhem and her community decided to trial Community-based Tourism (CBT) as a way to improve their incomes and share their culture with others.
As part of this project, Nhem opened a homestay by upgrading her house so she could accommodate up to 10 guests. She installed a modern bathroom, took lessons in cooking and English, and learned hospitality skills on the job.
The homestay helped Nhem secure a solid income for her family, but this business-minded woman had bigger plans.
The value of working together
Although her business was doing well, Nhem was limited by the size of the homestay. She was often only able to accommodate one group at a time.
Nhem turned to her village savings and loans association (VSLA) for help.
The Da Bia VSLA has 21 members – 18 women and three men. Together, they pool their savings and issue loans to help each other expand their businesses. There is also a small support fund for emergencies.
“Before joining, I used to spend money as soon as I earned it,” said Nhem. “I had no savings.”
But after joining the group, Nhem improved her financial literacy and began to understand the value of saving.
Turning savings into profits
Last year, Nhem took out a loan of $250 from the VSLA to build an extension on her homestay. Now it sleeps up to 30 people and Nhem can accommodate multiple groups at the same time.
“I have seen a positive growth in income and want to reinvest in my house by installing another toilet and bathroom,” she said.
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Sustainable Development Goals
The Community-based Tourism project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and by Irish Aid.