Member: Nguyen Thi Toan

Age: 59

Living: Phu Tho province


Mrs. Nguyen Thi Toan is a member of center 28, Ngoc Son 1 village, Son Hung commune, Thanh Son district, Phu Tho province. She is currently the leader of Thanh Son tea cooperative group, which is under the “cooperative business model” project sponsored by Rabobank and conducted by TYM. Mentioning Mrs. Toan, the local people can’t help admiring her. She is a small and agile woman that can always overcome her difficulties with optimism and try to be helpful to the community as well as this country.

Mrs. Toan got married to Mr. Hoang Van Huong, a man also living in that local, at the age of 22. But after 5 years of marriage, they still did have a child. After discussing, they decided to go to a hospital in Hanoi to find out the reason. Mrs. Toan broke down as the diagnostic result showed that she was the one sterile and could not bring the happiness of having a child to her husband. It put Mrs. Toan in misery, despair, and depression in a long period. Understanding her mood, Mr. Huong always stayed by her side, encouraged and took care of his wife so that she could get through everything. Time and such caring helped Mrs. Toan regain her spirit. Also, Mr. Huong’s brother and his wife agreed to let them raise and adopt their 3-year-old kid. Since that day, their family was always full of laughter, cozier and merrier than ever before. Mrs. Toan was extremely happy and could be herself again.

Sadly, their happiness didn’t last long. In 2010, Mr. Huong suffered from an illness and went to a hospital to check. They found that he was at the last stage of lung cancer. After 3 month fighting with the cruel disease, he passed away, leaving everything on his wife’s shoulders. But Mrs. Toan wouldn’t let herself break down again as she knew that her child needed her.

Overcoming these difficulties, she found pleasure in her work and made investment in growing tea leaves intensively on 5000 square meters of her family’s hill land. At the end of 2010, when TYM started their operation in the area, Mrs. Toan found that TYM mechanism of loan repayment was suitable for her and she soon became a member of the organization. She also encouraged other women in the local to borrow loans from TYM for the economic development of their family. Growing tea leaves brought Mrs. Toan and other women’s family a stable income. With the desire to learn and explore new things as well as her personal experience, Mrs. Toan realized if they learnt how to process fresh tea into dried one, their product would gain greater consumption and higher profits.

However, investing in the drying system and all necessary machines consumed a great amount of capital. Mrs. Toan discussed with other women in the neighborhood and they decided to contribute money to implementing their plan. After a year of operation, her workshop began to make profit and high economic efficiency. Some women living in the local came to her house and asked for instruction and support to start their own family model business. Each time like that, she came to every tea field and family to provide guidance for products with the best quality.

Being an intelligent woman, she realized the competitive mechanism in the market has been changing. The demand of consumers for quality and design was getting higher while her products were mainly hand-made and rudimentarily packaged. This made the consumption as well as value of products much lower compared to other dried tea product with the same or even lower quality in the market. Mrs. Toan wondered if there was a way to redesign and improve the quality of her product.

While Mrs. Toan was stuck and couldn’t find the solution, TYM piloted the “cooperative business model” project in her village with the support of Rabobank from the Netherland. After TYM officer introduced the project, she registered to join with other women in the village. They voted her as leader of the group.

With the responsibility of a leader and her decisive way of thinking, Mrs. Toan always complete her task: managing other members taking part in general business activities, organizing small groups to collect tea leaves in fields to minimize the cost of hiring employees, holding meetings so that members could share their tea processing techniques, managing group members joining in training on various topics “Group-based business “, “Growing tea leaves techniques”, “Drying tea leaves skill consulting”. She also frequently reminds and supports others to apply their knowledge and experience on the producing process and trading tea products. In 2015, with the group effort and TYM’s support, Thanh Son tea business cooperative group successfully designed and selected specific package and label styles for their products. Moreover, these products were supported to introduce and sell by TYM in the outlets at 39 Hang Chuoi (Vietnam Women’s Union) and 20 Thuy Khue – Hanoi as well as other outlets at TYM branches such as Thanh Hoa, Hung Nguyen – Nghe An, etc.

Achieving these results, Mrs. Toan has made so many efforts to analyze the benefits of group-based business models to members and encourage other members to cooperate in work. Understanding her concern and enthusiasm, women in group are always united and have strong determination towards family economic development.

Beside her work, Mrs. Toan has a peaceful and happy life with her child. Her family has been a motivation to the people around them, inspired them to live positively with a heart full of love and passion.