The Orange Cows Project

Background to the project

The Vietnam war, also called the American war by some, had a devastating impact. Even as the war is now long forgotten, and lost in the several other pages of our history books, its effects remain very real for certain people. These people, forgotten with the war, have had to live with consequences of that period. They struggle to gain a livelihood and are constantly hindered by several genetic deformities attributable to the devastating instruments of war employed by the US.

It is against this backdrop that the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Trust was established in Australia in 2002. The mission of this trust was quite simple; to ensure that these people get the assistance they desperately require and to empower them in any possible way.

It was in the interest of fulfilling this mission that the Orange Cows projects came about. The project was a way to secure a stream of income for the victims in remote areas.

Executing the project

The Orange Cows projects essentially involved raising money to purchase cows for Vietnamese people who were victims of the devastation of the war and thereby, make them more self-sufficient. The projects had to raise enough funds not only to pay for the cows but also for animal husbandry training to enable the Vietnamese locals to escape poverty and better care for family members suffering from disabilities.

The first project successfully raised enough money to enable 65 households in 2 communes to gain animal husbandry skills as well as breed cows. The subsequent project was also successful as it purchased 25 cows for people in the commune of Phong Xuan, which is an area that was gravely impacted during the war.

The distribution of the cows was made in consultation with the local people’s committee and council via the Trust’s colleagues at the Vietnamese Department of Foreign Affairs. This way, specific families to receive the cows were identified.

The cows were purchased from a Government-run supplier and had to journey through multiple districts, stopping at each border to be inspected by veterinarians and to receive appropriate sprays. The reception of the animals at the destination was an exciting one.

Recipients of the animals had to sign an agreement in which they pledged to look after their cow and to transfer its second calf to another affected family identified by the local people’s committee and council. This way, the empowerment would remain continuous within the communities.

In 2012, the University of Agriculture and Forestry in Hue and the University of Tasmania were commissioned to assess the Orange Cows projects. The assessment showed that the projects were indeed meeting their objectives, although in several cases the village recipients were under-equipped to cope with the cows. In other instances, the mortality rate of the cattle in certain communes was simply too high.

Thus, the Trust arranged for the communes to receive training courses from Hue University’s Professor Ba and colleagues. The Trust also had a final fundraising to provide proper shelter and food for the cattle as well as better educate the people with respect to breeding their cattle and earning money.