Our AALP class woke this morning in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 12 hours ahead of our families and friends at home in Ontario and the inaugural Canada's Agriculture Day.
We are celebrating and sharing our passion and knowledge of Canadian agriculture today with two other Ag leadership groups from the US, LEAD New York and Rural Leadership North Dakota.
We started the day by splitting into mixed groups and partaking in different activities around the city. Many of the groups visited the War Remnants museum, while other groups took part in a traditional Vietnamese cooking class:
One group experienced a new mode of transportation, the Vietnamese rickshaw and the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City traffic.
We then returned to the hotel for an afternoon of speakers. Up first was Matthew Wall, Public Affairs officer at the US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. He spoke on economics and trade between Vietnam and the US. He said that even though there has been conflict and history between the two countries, ties have never been stronger and Vietnam is the fastest growing export market for the US. He also mentioned that they use Facebook as their primary communication channel to promote American products, as 42 million people in Vietnam are on Facebook and Twitter is not available in Vietnam.
The next speaker, was Dr. Vo Mal from the Vietnam Gardening Association (VACVINA). VACVINA was the first Vietnam NGO and has one million members and more than 18,000 base organizations all over the country. She shared the message that their goal is to help gardeners become rich farmers. They assist farmers with training, promotion of products and access to set-up local markets.
Antony Nezic spoke next about his role as the President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CanCham Vietnam). Can Cham Vietnam consists of ~150 corporate members; 30% Canadian, 30% international, and the remaining is made up of Vietnamese companies. They host Canadian events, such as Canada Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, and the largest Terry Fox run in the world! He shared the message that as Canadians we need to do a better job of promoting our agriculture products and services to the world.
Our final speaker of the day was Vu Le Y Voan, Vice Director of International Cooperation Department of the Vietnam Farmers Union (VFNU). She said that more than 70% of the population of Vietnam are farmers, and the VNFU assists farmers with everything from creating policies, advocating for farmers, organizing training courses for technical and scientific progress and technology, as well as providing input services such as seed, fertilizer, pesticides, to loans and credit to their members and promoting products and introducing farmers to markets.
We finished off our day with a dinner with the three ag leadership groups. It was a great day of learning about Vietnam and celebrating Canadian Agriculture Day from half way across the world.