After 6 months of intensive preparation, the Institute for Socio-economic Development Studies of Can Tho City (CIDS), the Southern Institute for Sustainable Development (SISD) and the Center for Development Research (ZEF) carried out a survey on small-scale enterprises (SSE) development, livelihoods and water management in Can Tho City, Mekong Delta. During the period of May 14th to 23rd, 2012 the research team implemented two distinct questionnaires, one for enterprise owners and one for workers and held six focus group discussions with community representatives on the impact of business development in the research area.
The questionnaire for enterprise owners aimed at collecting data on the socio-economic background of the local entrepreneurs, the enterprise profiles and development trajectories as well as their main challenges and future aspirations. Furthermore, the survey aimed at identifying the role of enterprise development for job creation and livelihoods in a rapidly changing socio-economic environment.
The survey has been implemented along the Thot Not Canal, which extends over two administrative districts. Along the canal, three clusters have been identified, covering Thot Not town as peri-urban area, Co Do town as typical capital of a rural district and a rural area in the middle of the canal. Following a stratified sampling strategy, a total of 200 SSE were selected for the questionnaire implementation.
The sample shows a high diversity of business establishments in the area, ranging from formally registered rice mills, dockyards and brickworks to non-registered, micro-scale businesses providing repair services, food or crafts. Preliminary findings indicate that most enterprises are family-run and managed by women; they employ a very limited number of laborers and employment patterns show significant seasonal variations. Labor migration seems to be low as most workers of the surveyed SSEs originate from the area or have moved there a long time ago. Demands on rural markets for goods/ services as well as laborers apparently depend on agricultural seasons and the particular cropping cycle of the area.
In view of modernization, population pressure and ongoing environmental change in the research area, the survey also addressed a range of environmental issues related to SSE, such as water consumption, waste water and solid waste disposal of businesses, but also ecological change and how it has been affecting SSEs in their operations. On the one side, the direct location on the waterfront constitutes an asset or is even considered an absolute necessity in the eyes of many small-scale entrepreneurs. On the other side, certain risks arise from the close proximity to the canal bank, since according to interview results seasonal flooding and bank erosion have increased over the past ten years. Furthermore, owners of larger companies who traditionally depend upon waterborne traffic complained about canal silting and shallow water levels which hamper and temporarily even disrupt transportation of goods by boats.
Following the data entry and in-depth analysis, further results will be provided in due time. A comprehensive report can be expected at the end of the year.