GDG – Geoff and Betty Armstrong and Peta Thomas Visit to Ban Xai.

Betty and Peta and I visited MiVAC project J715 in Bian Xia (Feb 13) and were very well treated by John Salter and all the staff. I have some notes attached which are a bit verbose as intended for Global Development Group staff unfamiliar with the project.

I obviously can’t be an expert after one day! Nevertheless I have a few points that can be made

1.     The project has made real progress recently

2.      MiVAC probably put $100,000/year into the project as work/gifts in kind.

3.      Lives cannot be changed overnight. In our experience we look at about 6 years to really achieve the required result. Nevertheless I will make a few comments that are quick observations – but probably realistic.

a)      The constant changing off staff makes it really hard to give continuity. It takes about six weeks to get to understand things and then they go. They probably don’t get to know the locals. The addition of John Salter is a great answer and that means he has a great responsibility on his shoulders. In the week we have been involved John has been very active in moving things forward.


The introduction of the water is a great achievement I made some recommendations re a sky hydrant to clean the water up and also some simpler ceramic filters. But I got the impression that it has taken awhile to get this far.

The next step is to pipe to individual community points!! And also to get water to Hinmou Pueng.

There should be a plan, costed and then done. I like a speedy approach because that’s the way I like to do things, but secondly the villages need to see real results and it is a good opportunity to enhance MiVAC reputation.

Power Connection

The next issue is the connection of power. I believe MiVAC have connected it to some at Hinmou Pueng. Again, cost it and get it done for all and as I said put in a satellite dish or two and a couples of TV’s.

The villages are watching MiVAC closely and really appreciate everything done, but we don’t want it all to centre on the ‘MiVAC 1 ha’.

I might be suggesting Peder or someone puts in more funds but we also want to see that MiVAC and TCF (and Global Development Group) are looked on with esteem.

The villagers want improved standard of living and these things contribute. It will be a longer period before their actual income increases.

Other Hmong villages are looking at the progress and of course they would all like to be helped too.

b)      Every project where we introduce biogas we seem to get a bit bogged down at first and then it takes off. We have achieved gas! That’s a great start. We could lose ground when Bill and Coralie leave. It is up to John to make sure we don’t this is great potential.

c)      Gardens and agriculture just usually plods along. There is nothing of note here. I guess some quick achievement could be made with some microenterprise and some more vocational training (MiVAC have made a good start with 6 girls currently going to vocational training).

d)     I would like to see the dam completed and fish farming. Also add the chickens. I note that others in town put the Chicken Coops on top of the fish pond.

The  MiVAC model is to ‘do’ so as to ‘train’. But if some of these things could be made ‘commercial’ in a micro enterprise sense then it would create a better project i.e. fish farming, chickens, agriculture. We have recently had a similar project completed with this change in emphasis.

The one year + TC funding is complete, there is certainly much work still to be done I think a new proposal would be in order but some emphasis should be put on some more speed and probably a little more involvement of the families. The village chief can make his people go to work – but it is better if they want to.

Overall I think MiVAC have done a great job and I can see that there can be a very good sustainable and repeatable ending.

NB  We need a causeway over the Fjord – $35,000? Mivac have done this type of thing before.  The toilet program is going very well

Geoff Armstrong BSc, MBA, AFAMI, CMC, MAICD, MASQ

Executive Director

Global Development Group