The Bac Can provincial People's Committee and the Irish aid agency (Irish Aid) have reviewed a successful Ireland-assisted poverty reduction programme.

The programme, “Village Ownership and Investment for Community Empowerment” (VOICE), the first of its kind in Vietnam, aims to support sustainable poverty reduction through further decentralisation of investment management to commune and village level, while strengthening local government and empowering local people.

Unlike other ODA projects, VOICE management and implementation apparatus is simpler and bypasses the district level, said Pham Quang Hoa, head of an independent consultative group to the programme.

VOICE applies the method of planning with the involvement of local residents, he said.

Hoang Ngoc Duong, Chairman of the Bac Can Provincial People's Committee, spoke highly of the programme, saying that with its success, the programme can be applied in other provinces.

Thanks to VOICE, hundreds of beneficiary households were lifted out of poverty – 245 in 2009 and 414 in 2010.

Since the 3 million EUR programme was launched in 2008, it has helped to dramatically reduce the poverty rate in several communes, such as Nong Thinh from 19 percent in 2008 to 9.8 percent in 2010, Yen Cu from 23 percent to 13 percent, Trung Hoa from 53 percent to 41, and Na Phac from 33.7 percent to 24.6 percent.

Moreover, VOICE helped improve local government capacity, with 10 of 12 communes having competent development boards under VOICE, able to operate independently from district and provincial levels./.