Cooperative women producing and selling souvenirs as an additional livelihood to reduce mangrove overexploitation in Giao Xuan Commune – the buffer zone of Xuan Thuy National Park, Nam Dinh

Marine gift - Decoration picture

Marine gift - Decoration picture, Nam Dinh Province, Vietnam © IUCN Vietnam, 2013


The project aimed to develop a model of women producing and selling souvenirs as an additional livelihood to reduce mangrove over exploitation in Giao Xuan Commune – the buffer zone of Xuan Thuy National Park, Nam Dinh Province and replicate it in mangroves areas of Nui Thanh District, Quang Nam province and Tan Phu Dong District, Tien Giang Province.  


Giao Xuan Commune was one of five communes in the buffer zone of XTNP with a population of more than 10,000 people. A majority of local people were dependent on coastal resources such as clam farming and fishing. Mangrove resources in Viet Nam in general and XTNP in particular are being unsustainably exploited, often by local people living in poverty. In an effort to reduce resource over exploitation, stakeholders implemented different types of alternative livelihoods for the community, including community-based ecotourism.

Since 2007, the Giao Xuan community-based ecotourism model in Giao Xuan Commune received a lot of visitors from other coastal communities, marine protected areas, as well as NGOs who were interested in replicating the success of this model. They also received long-term volunteers, who helped with community development activities. Income from tourism, together with other activities such as awareness raising, enforcement of legislation, development of community treaties, etc., helped reduce violations in the use of natural resources in the Ramsar site. Most participants in this community-based tourism model were women and did not have many opportunities to earn additional income for their family. However, the income from the community-based tourism model remained low and although the number of visitors was increasing, few souvenirs were available for purchase. 

The project aimed to fill this gap by aiming to establish a "marine gifts" model which produced souvenirs for women to earn additional income in Giao Xuan Commune (buffer zone of XTNP). Materials used to produce souvenirs included clam shells, snail shells, tree branches and other environmentally friendly materials. Participating in the model were 35 women who were otherwise unpaid housewives and have a commitment to conserve mangroves resources in the area. The project also aimed to document the model experience and share it with other coastal areas, including Quang Nam and Tien Giang, two other SGF project sites.

Target beneficiaries

65 local poor women targeted to earn additional income from souvenir productions. 


- A set of sample souvenir products produced with typical mangroves features in Vietnam.

- A typical model of “Handicrafts Marine Gift” created in Giao Xuan Commune, buffer zone of XTNP as an example for communities living surrounding other two mangrove areas in Quang Nam and Tien Giang.

- A set of materials on experience of developing the model produced and shared with at least two communities living surrounding other mangrove areas.

- Experience sharing, skills training conducted for at least 30 people from two communities living surrounding other mangrove areas.

Accomplishments and challenges

  • A set of 10 souvenirs were designed by MG (Marine Gifts) and then produced by the cooperative women using local materials from mangrove areas.
  • 35 cooperative members were provided with training for producing souvenirs, as per the design requirements. They were also trained on soft skills in products sales, communication with customers, customer information management and customer service.
  • MG provided technical guidance for cooperative participants to produce souvenirs and also promote and sell these products through different channels. 12 product display shelves were placed in home-stays, tourism centers, and the show room of MG in Hanoi. New products are also regularly updated on MG's website, social networks, and newsletters.

  • At the end of the project, each cooperative member earned an additional income of VND 500,000 (US$25) per month (equivalent to 30% of a household's average income) while still undertaking their regular housework. Part of the profits from sales revenue (5%) were reinvested in production skills enhancement (training on the new products) for  the cooperative members after the project was completed. 

  • Training in souvenir production was also provided to two other extension areas in Nui Thanh District, Quang Nam Province and Tan Phu Dong District, Lien Giang Province.

  • A manual on replicating the model has been published and shared  with interested community groups in other coastal areas in Cu Lao Cham MPA, Nha Trang MPA, Nui Thanh, Tra Nhieu Village in HoiAn, Tan Phu Dong District, and Can Gio Biosphere Reserve. Other project grantees under MFF also expressed their interest in replicating the model in their project sites (Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Thanh Hoa,Ca Mau, Quang Nam).

Contributions to cross-cutting themes

- Gender equality

Lessons Learned

  • Through the souvenir-making model, women spent less time exploiting mangrove resources, hence contributing to reduction in mangrove over exploitation. However, the project would have gained more impact on mangrove conservation if awareness raising activities in mangrove values and the needs for sustainable mangrove exploitation were integrated into the model.
  • Although the project helped increase the income for cooperative members, it remained an additional rather than an alternative livelihood because the local women were not able to produce highly-detailed and exquisite souvenirs. Involving women in the product design and innovation process proved to be a critical step if women were to develop the full potential of this livelihood over time. 
  • Along with enhancing production skills, the market for products needed to be further developed to reach more customers and help sustain the project. According to the grantee, the initial products using mangrove byproducts did not meet the expected standards and have not been sufficiently purchased. It proved to be difficult maintaining the model where professional skills did not meet market requirements. The project adapted quickly by producing marine style products like embroidered fish and turtles which received more positive responses from customers. Capacity needs assessment and participatory planning to identify possible alternative local livelihood opportunities must be part of project planning process.
  • Several trainings were held for local women in Quang Nam and Lien Giang provinces, two other SGF sites with the hope that the model could be replicated in these areas. In Quang Nam, the community needed more time and financial resources to process Nipa Palm leaves for making souvenirs. In Tien Giang, there is a potential for making juice from Sonneratia fruits. However, if it is not a well-planned process, collecting mangrove byproducts as an alternative may lead to adverse effects as people can switch to cutting trees instead.

Project Facts



Giao Xuan Commune is located in the buffer zone of Xuan Thuy National Park, Giao Thuy District, Nam Dinh Province



1st Jul 2012 to 30th Jun 2013

MFF Grant Amount

VND 423,240,000

Co-financing Partner

Marine Gifts Social Enterprise

Add: No 66 Lane 12 Dang Thai Mai street, Tay ho district, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tel/Fax: 84. 4. 39903793

Mobile: 84.912.052.968



Implementing Partner

Ms. Tang Thi Duyen Hong (Technical Advisor)

Giao Xuan Community–based Ecotourism Cooperative

Address: Giao Xuan Commune, Giao Thuy District, Nam Dinh Province

Tel: 0350.895.422

Fax: 04. 0350.895.422



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