Mekong Plus improving lives in south-east Asia together with its partners
Since the 1990s, Vietnam and Cambodia-based non-government organisation (NGO) Mekong Plus has dedicated its existence to changing the lives of under-privileged locals in rural regions through community projects that aim to improve agriculture, education, environment and more.
Establishing partnerships key to success
Founding director Bernard Kervyn insists that one of the factors that has helped Mekong Plus’ programmes flourish in the last two decades is the support of other organisations that form what he considers to be indispensable partnerships with Mekong Plus.
Bernard and Mekong Plus’ team at large began its community efforts in the Mekong delta region in the early 2000s before deciding to work with local partner NGO Ánh Dương Centre based in the Long Mỹ district of Hậu Giang Province, Vietnam.
Thanks to shared expertise and resources, Mekong Plus and Ánh Dương Centre launched innovative initiatives, including helping locals build covered vegetable farms that are effective at pest and weather protection, and developing small-scale agronomy that involve raising eels and cultivating straw mushrooms—a small part of a non-exhaustive list of efforts that have helped locals escape the vicious cycle of poverty through sustainable investments suitable for their living conditions.
Since the 2010s, Mekong Plus has passed on the ownership of these projects to Ánh Dương Centre—a decision that Mekong Plus believes is beneficial for its beneficiaries.
“As Vietnamese organisations, local-run NGOs can apply for grants from a wider audience!” Bernard explains.
With this, Ánh Dương Centre has managed to receive monetary assistance from many foreign embassies, as well as local corporations such as VinaMilk and MoMo, respectively Vietnam’s most popular FMCG milk brand and e-wallet service, that are motivated to contribute back to the local community.
Corporate and knowledge-based partnerships that forge new solutions
“[Our] partners go beyond [simply] financial aid,” Bernard reminded.
From an international perspective, Mekong Plus has worked actively with some of the world’s most technologically-inclined corporations to create solutions to problems that the poor encounter in its area-of-activity.
“Many corporate partners such as Bayer, BNP Paribas and Scancom have [gone beyond funds and] provided us with valuable technical support,” Bernard added.
More recently, Tryba, a French industry leader producing windows and doors, has shared knowledge with Mekong Plus, improving the durability and reducing the rate of UV degradation of sustainable plastic roofs and walls developed for use by underprivileged families.
Earthwake, another French innovator of green solutions, has provided Mekong Plus with expertise on improving recent pyrolysis projects in the Mekong Delta.
Pyrolysis involves burning plastic at extremely high temperatures without oxygen to produce liquid, gas and solid fuel—the exact same process has been perfected by Earthwake to power ‘green buses’ in Nice, France.
Thanks to Mekong Plus pioneering rural technology-based efforts, local Vietnamese universities including the Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry and Văn Lang Private University have also led a hand in the development of biogas harvesting techniques that Mekong Plus has applied successfully to households that rear pigs and chickens.
“Many local universities are very interested in environmental issues; professors have visited [our initiatives] and given advice,” Bernard explained.
Increasing visibility key to attracting new partners
Ultimately, Mekong Plus also believes in projects that aim to produce merchandise that are visible to the world while creating sustainable employment to underprivileged communities.
Mekong Quilts, Mekong Plus’ ‘sister’ social enterprise that focuses on creating sustainable fabric work for women, has been a key driver of Mekong Plus’ visibility.
From its original line-up of ethnic and cultural art-inspired quilts to more recent creations such as designer face masks, wearables, and south-east Asia’s only line-up of bamboo-made bicycles, these products have helped break a barrier—standing out amongst hundreds of NGOs in the region and finding new partners willing to contribute both financially and through skills transfer.
“The appearance of Mekong Quilts’ products in cities help us send out the message,” Bernard added.
Beyond that, Bernard also believes that maintaining ties with other NGOs allows experiences to be shared, ensuring that similar ground-level mistakes are not repeated
How you can help Mekong Plus and its efforts
For more than two decades, Mekong Plus other initiatives that involve classroom dental hygiene and education has helped thousands of children stay healthy in school and keep continuation of education a reality.
More than 3% of children from schools in Mekong Plus’ areas-of-activity benefit from a Mekong Quilts-led scholarship programme that is fuelled by merchandise sales and financial aid from sponsors.
To learn more about these initiatives and how you can help your preferred scope of beneficiaries, visit https://mekongplus.org today.