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Farmers adapt to growing urbanisation

Update: March, 13/2012 - 10:26

by Bich Huong

 

Nguyen Viet Dam has worked for a safety-box company for over four years. Safety-box production helps create jobs and improve the incomes of local people. — VNS Photo Bich Huong
HA NOI — Urbanisation is obvious in Kim Chung Commune, Ha Noi's suburban Hoai Duc District, with mushroomed multi-storey houses, upgraded cement roads, serviced facilities and narrowing farmland.

Reduced land and income generated from agriculture would seem to lead to the increased migration to urban areas.

This is true in many localities nationwide but the commune in Hoai Duc is an exception. Here local farmers show their flexibility in adapting to new situations, engaging themselves in the trade called called "safety-box production".

Like almost all of the commune's Dai Tu villagers, 25-year-old Nguyen Viet Dam understands that farming is subject to the uncertainties of weather conditions, and a low income could not support his family.

"With a few hundreds square metres of farming land, my parents still stick to farm work," he said as his hands continue to paint the surface of the safety-box.

Four years ago, Dam started working for a local safety-box production company, earning about VND4-5 million (US$190-240) each month.

"Working here, I don't have to worry about travelling costs, rent, and being overcharged for water/electricity bills," he said.

Many of his fellow villagers, who do not attend a tertiary education program, now prefer to work at local establishments.

Dinh Doan Loi, another villager and also Dam's boss, proudly introduced his 4,000-sq.m- workshop full of huge corrugated iron panels and hundreds of safety-boxes.

He said that when he was a farmer, his family of three was allocated about two sao (720sq.m). To feed his family, when he had time he would drive to deliver electrical equipment to dealers in Ha Noi, over 20km away from his house.

Villagers first learned about safety-boxes in 1995 when a native businessman Do Van Ban moved his workshop from Ha Noi to Dai Tu Village, offering extra-jobs for local people.

Loi said that at that time, Ban's business was growing prosperous and his employees were earning much more than farmers.

Those who learnt the techniques to make safety-boxes and accumulated enough money, eventually opened workshops of their own, Loi said.

He was a bit different as he was never a safety-box maker. He invested in building a workshop in 2003, hiring mechanics to study how to make the product and then training workers.

"Production technique was at first a challenge to us because we, the farmers, were strangers to this field," Loi said, adding that the technique was a decisive factor to ensuring quality and gaining customer trust.

From the owner of a small establishment with 11 employees, Loi is now director of Viet Duc Trade and Manufacture ltd Co, employing nearly 100 people, most of whom are Dai Tu villagers.

His company is among 40 safety-box producing workshops and companies in the village.

With an average scale of 20-50 employees, the workshops produced thousands of safety-boxes. Since 2007 the village has been titled a trade village, making the production of safety-boxes a brand of Dai Tu Village, Kim Chung Commune, Loi said, pointing to other workshops also situated right on rice fields.

The commune People's Committee chairman Nguyen Huu Cuong said that as farming land was narrowed due to urbanisation or industrial projects, the emerging trade helped local people improve their income and notably, created jobs.

With population of about 10,000 people, the commune used to have more than 200ha of farming land. Today there is about 90ha left.

However, while most of the workshops are built in residential areas, features of production such as noise and chemicals unfortunately raise concerns about the environment, he said.

The need to expand production urged company owners to rent out land in their neighbourhoods or to move to rice fields, Cuong said, adding that the moves [using agricultural land for manufacturing] was not legal.

Director Loi said that local enterprises wanted to invest and expand their production to tap market demand as well as create more jobs, but it was risky.

Chairman Cuong said that it was nearly impossible to arrange land for local businesses to develop because the commune had to follow plans designated by higher levels.

So far, Loi said, local enterprises have to manage by themselves and their businesses might come to a stop someday when planned projects kicked off.

Dam doesn't think too much about the next five or ten years. He enjoys working in his hometown though his boss may feel many uncertainties about the future of the business. — VNS

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