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Regarding rural development and the role of culture in rural development in Vietnam
14/2/2020 9:26' Send Print
Rural development is a participatory process, empowering rural residents so that they can control the development process according to their priorities. Source:

Rural development

Rural development (PTNT) is also agricultural development. In the 1980s, the World Bank renewed the definition of rural development as a strategy planned to improve the socio-economic life of the poor in rural areas. Rural development must aim to improve the living standards of the majority of the poor in rural areas, enable them to develop themselves and it needs the mobilization and distribution of resources and an equitable distribution of output in some appropriate policy frameworks at national and regional levels, including institutional and skill upgrades. Accordingly, the role of the state in rural development is to promote institutions, provide public goods and services as well as provide technical, social, informatics, communication infrastructure,and to support forming farmer organizations, providing services of agricultural expansion encouragement, credit supports and input materials.

Rural development is a participatory process, emphasizing the empowerment of rural residents so they can control the development process according to the priorities they choose. Rural development is linked to countries' poverty reduction goals based on an approach to sustainable livelihood theory. Poverty reduction becomes a central issue of rural development. Governments now tend to move the way of approaches from unidirectional poverty to multidimensional poverty.

Improving the quality of material and spiritual life of rural residents is the target of rural development. Rural development is a process of intentional sustainable social, economic, cultural and environmental change in order to improve the living quality of local people, expressed in three objectives: Firstly, improving the competitiveness of agriculture. Secondly, improving the environment and rural landscape. Thirdly, improving the quality of rural life and encouraging diversification of economic activities, in other words, "improving the conditions of the rural community as a whole, including the economy and the quality of life in several aspects, such as environment, health, infrastructure and housing. "The rural development model embraces three aspects of economy, society and politics, creating capacity and opportunity for rural people to participate and benefit from the development process, creating capacity and opportunity to participate in the comprehensive political and social development process.

Rural development aims to transform rural areas in terms of economy, society, culture, environment and institutions; to pay comprehensive attention to the welfare of the poor and beneficiary rural communities, including the fields of education, health, social services and technical infrastructure. In other words, modern concepts emphasize the combination of improving economic and social living standards for rural residents, especially for the poor, and for environmentally sustainable, people-centered and multidisciplinary development.

It can be said that rural development must ensure the principle of sustainable development, and be people-centered. The principle of sustainability requires that rural development have economic growth, but the fruits of growth must be shared harmoniously and fairly for all members of the rural community. At the same time, the exploitation and use of resources for development must be reasonable, protecting the natural environment and ensuring the use of resources of future generations. The people-centered principle requires proper awareness of the subjective role of rural communities in the development process.

The revolutionary guideline of our Party always focuses on agriculture, farmers and rural areas. In the current period, the Document of the XII Congress has clearly indicated the tasks and solutions to restructure agriculture associated with building new rural areas in the period of 2016-2020: "Focusing on synchronous and effective implementation of solutions for sustainable agriculture development, building new rural areas and improving farmers' lives”. In order to concretize that guideline, the Decision No. 1600/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister, dated 16th August, 2016 on Approving the National Target Program on New Rural Construction in the period 2016 - 2020, specify the overall objective of the Program in the current period: "Building new countryside to improve the material and spiritual life of the people; having appropriate socio-economic infrastructure,rational economic structure and forms of production organization, integrating agricultural development with industry and services; associating rural development with urban; building democratic, equitable, stable society with rich socio-cultural identity,protected eco-environment; maintained defense and security." Specific targets are also set out that, by 2020, about 50% of communes will meet the new rural standards (of which, the strived targets of each area and region are: Northern mountainous region: 28%; Red River delta: 80%; North Central: 59%; South Central Coast: 60%; Central Highlands 43%; Southeast: 80%; Mekong River Delta: 51%); encourage each province and city directly under the Central Government to strive to have at least one district meeting new rural standards. On average, the country achieved 15 criteria/ commune (of which, striving goals for each area and region are: Northern mountainous region: 13.8; Red River delta: 18; North Central region: 16.5; South Central Coast: 16.5; Central Highlands: 15.2; Southeast: 17.5; Mekong River Delta: 16.6); no communes achieve under 5 criteria. Basically, completing essential works to meet the requirements of production development and life of rural residents: transportation, electricity, running water, schools, commune health stations; Improving the quality of life of rural residents; creating many production models associated with stable jobs for people;increasing average income at least 1.8 times compared to 2015.

Thus, it can be said that the four pillars of modern rural development are clearly reflected in the new rural program goals that the Party and the State have pointed out. Among them, the standpoint is to ensure the principle of people-centered sustainable development when the ultimate goal of the Party and State of Vietnam is to "improve the material and spiritual life of people."

Challenges in rural development in Vietnam today

Following the Party's guideline of rural development, for more than 30 years of renovation, rural Vietnam has made strong strides with many achievements of comprehensive development and stability. According to the General Statistics Office, in the period of 2011 - 2015, the GDP growth rate of agriculture, forestry and fishery was estimated to average 3.1% per year; production value increases on average of 3.6% peryear”. High-tech agriculture becomes a "new wave" in the field of agricultural production, creating high-quality products, ensured food safety in chains, initially competing with foreign goods and targeting to export. Restructuring the agricultural sector has been implemented on the basis of bringing into full play the advantages of the whole country and each region in association with the domestic market and exports. In the five years from 2011 to 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have approved 24 plans to serve the restructuring of the agricultural sector, including 17 national-wide plans and 7 regional and specific regional plans, etc., making important contributions to production maintenance,business development and industry growth.

However, fragmented production, stagnant productivity, and dispersion are still main challenges, especially in the Northern and Central provinces. Product quality and added value have not met the standards. Agricultural growth in recent years has tended to stagnate, develop unsustainably, the efficiency of agricultural production is lower, farmers' life in some areas is increasingly difficult, methods of agriculturalproductionin Vietnam is mainly based on the scale of small, fragmented household production, underdeveloped enterprises, cooperatives; production and business of agricultural links are limited, the application of science and technology in production is limited, not yet bringing high efficiency, the competitiveness of Vietnamese agricultural products on the world market is still low.

After 5 years of implementing the New Rural Construction Program in 63 provinces and cities, up to now, the country has obtained positive results but still lower than the set targets and unsustainable, not associated with agricultural development and rural economy. The program has not yet achieved the goal by 2015 that 20% of the communes will meet the new rural criteria as set out in the Resolution of the 7th plenum of the 10th Central Committee (currently reaching 14.5%). The communes have focused on developing infrastructure, especially roads, but the content of production development associated with restructuring the agricultural sector, building cultural life and protecting the environment has not got proper attention. Many localities have focused on implementing the contents of new rural construction undertaken by the commune level but have not paid adequate attention to the implementation of the contents at the village and household level. The results of new rural construction among regions and areas have great disparities. While the number of communes meeting the new rural standards in the Southeast is 34%, in the Red River Delta is 23.5%, in the Northern Mountains and Central Highlands are only about 7%. Some localities run after achievements, so there are signs of mobilizing too many people, or outstanding debts of basic construction, which are unable to pay, or when assessing the quality of criteria are still inaccurate.

It can be said that rural development in Vietnam currently faces significant challenges in many aspects, such as unsustainable development, degraded rural environment, increasing pollution rate, notably changes in cultural values and the increase of social evils.

Sustainability of rural development

Many recent studies and assessments on rural development in Vietnam are now concerned about its sustainability. Specifically, such as development inequalities across regions, areas, ethnic groups and social groups; Social security in rural areas has not been guaranteed, especially for the disadvantaged people (the poor, the elderly, the lonely and the disable). In general, rural infrastructure, from electricity, roads, schools, health stations, markets, and running water. . . are all inferior. The equipment used in agriculture is still very rudimentary, manual labor is essential. Rural areas are lagging behind, infrastructure is of low quality, only meeting part of their lives, failing to meet production requirements, being unsustainable in preventing and controlling natural disasters and environmental pollution”.

Rural environment

Rural environment and landscape are seriously degraded; pollution of solid waste, water and air sources is increasing. At present, the difficult problem that has not been solved is the solid waste treatment due to the daily life and production in the countryside, together with the increasing use of plastic bags, chemicalfertilisers and pesticides in agriculture, which hasworsened the environmental pollution in rural areas. “In Vietnam, more than 60 million people are living in rural areas, accounting for about 73% of the country's population. On average, rural areas generate more than 31 thousand tons of solid waste (CTR) daily. Domestic solid waste in this area has a high proportion of organic matter, mainly from food waste and garden waste and most of it is easily biodegradable organic waste. However, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the rate of domestic solid waste collection in rural areas is only about 40% to 55%. Most solid waste is collected and treated by unsanitary burial method, thus causing environmental pollution. In addition, more than 47 million tons of animal wastes and 14,000 tons of packaging of plant protection chemicals, fertilizers and solid wastes are generated from rural waste recycling villages each year. materials (metal, paper, plastic ...) with many ingredients that are harmful to the environment and human health. "

In addition, the decline and pollution of rural groundwater are present and adversely affecting the health of rural people.

Pollution of rural living environment, especially in developing handicraft villages, is a difficult problem despite many efforts to overcome from the central to local authorities. According to statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, there are nearly a thousand handicraft villages producing handicrafts in Vietnam, including hundreds of trade villages where production processes use toxic-substances chemicals, such as wood, iron, glass, packaging, medicine, paper craft villages. . . impactinggreatly on health and life of people in the region.

Changes in rural cultural values and the increase of social evils

With the achievements of the renovation process over the past 30 years, the country's socio-economy has undergone many dramatic changes, resulting in dramatic changes in cultural values, such as a shift from the traditional cultureto modern culture in the period of industrialization, modernization and international integration. Social life in rural areas today has had many changes compared to the period before renovation. Traditional values are gradually disappearing, and replaced by new values in rural life. The old form of filial piety and village festivals may stand still but its meaning has beenpartly different. Commodity market factors, practical and pragmatic material value factors are more pronounced. People pay less attention to the traditional emotional meanings, long-standing etiquette in community behaviors, and lead a more hustle, more calculating and more energetic life, and strive more for family engagement, increase individual income and personal and family status in the seemingly old village community. A lot of things in the village are thought so, but they are not.

In many rural areas, especially in rural areas with strong urbanization, the lives of people are richer but their lives also change faster, social evils are more complicated, such as gambling, alcohol, drug use, prostitution, gangster violence along with corruption and local "bullies". In fact, it has been a pain in much peaceful countryside since a few decades ago.

Researches on culture and development in Vietnam today all say that economic growth is not sustainable; the model of heavy development of exploitation serves the interests of groups instead of sustainable development. Culture is not associated with development but is still considered as the domain of propaganda. Dialogue of and respect for cultural diversity and cultural conduct lean on advocacy rather than setting activities, administrative activities instead of leaving space for organizations participating in development strategies

The role of culture in rural development

From the viewpoint of modern rural development, the four pillars of economy, culture - society, environment and institutions are the driving force of rural development, themust-be-reached elements in a developed rural area, to create sustainable growth and poverty reduction as a result of rural development. The dynamics of rural development must be formed and thereby promoting the rural development process. In other words, creating the dynamics of rural development is also the content that rural development programs must aim to achieve the goal of improving the overall quality of life for rural residents.

Cultural aspect of rural development seems to be little mentioned even in the world. In 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Earth Summit on environment and development, and 10 years later (in 2002), in Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa), the World Summit on Sustainable Development has supplemented and developed more specifically the international documents that had been given earlier when sustainable development was considered a development process which has a harmonious, rational and close combination between the three aspects of sustainable development, includingeconomic, social and environmentalones. In these three aspects, sustainable economic development focuses on a stable growth rate over a relatively long time, ensuring the quality of growth reflected in the efficiency and competitiveness of the economy; the sustainable social development focuses on the aspects of progress, social justice, hunger eradication and poverty reduction, creating job opportunities and stabilizing people's lives; sustainable environmental protection and development focuses on anticipation, prevention and overcoming of pollution types; environmental quality improvement; rational and economical exploitation of natural resources, protection of existing forests, prevention of deforestation, especially primeval forests, for production land and industrial tree-planting land or making cattle grazing yards. Thus, the development in all three aspects of economy, society and environment constitutes a unified whole, creating sustainable development from a new perspective.

However, it must be pointed out that, in the above-mentioned official and important documents of the world community, the role of culture in socio-economic sustainable development is still quite lacking worthy position as it should be. However, it was during this period that UNESCO recognized the importance of culture in development and in the modern socio-economic regulation shown in the launching of the World Decade for Cultural Development (1988 - 1997). At the beginning of the 2000s, the world agreed that sustainable development is not only the development of the three economic, social and environmental pillars, but also the sustainable development of culture as the fourth pillar.

Particularly in terms of rural development, attention should be paid to rural cultural heritages including natural and man-made landscapes; historical sites, traditional constructions. Cultural heritage is also an inheritance culture, based on the people’s history, folk tales and folk literature, beliefs, long-standing practices; culinary traditions, arts, crafts and industry. This heritage varies greatly between regions and among ethnic communities. The diversity of cultural heritage makes localities unique and this creates an attraction for people, and is the foundation for developing local cultural tourism as a complementary economic resource. added to the rural economy. Protecting the cultural identity of the countryside is a huge challenge for rural development, as urbanization is expanding.

In Vietnam, although for a long time, the Communist Party of Vietnam has paid great attention to the development of advanced ethnic culture imbued with national identity, considering cultural development as both a goal and a motivation of the revolution. However, up to now, Vietnam has not "built a cultural development strategy in parallel with the economic development strategy... In economic activities, attention has not been paid to cultural factors and corresponding cultural development requirements”.

Resolution of the 9thplanerysession of 9thCentral Conference (June 2014) also specifies that mechanisms and policies on economy in culture, and culture in economy, on mobilizing and managing resources for culture have not been specific and obvious. The 12th Congress of the Party once again pointed out: Vietnam is still "not fully aware of and properly handling the relationship between economic growth and cultural development, building people, promoting social progress and social justice, protecting natural resources and environment”.

From the perspective of rural development, it can be said that if not taking into account the cultural development factor, it will not be possible to have a sustainable rural development.


This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 925 (September 2019)

Dr. Truong Xuan TruongInstitute of Sociology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences