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H’mông apple helps minority escape poverty

Update: October, 25/2016 - 08:00
A farmer harvest Sơn tra in Mù Căng Chải District.—Photo baotintuc.vn
Viet Nam News

Yên Bái – Residents of Mù Cang Chải District in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai are enjoying better lives thanks to their special ethnic fruit called Sơn Tra.

Sơn Tra or H’mông apple (scientifically named Docynia indica) is an indigenous tree species widely found at high elevations in northern Việt Nam.

Its fruit is traditionally used as food and for making wine, providing a source of income for farmers.

From growing wild in the forests, in recent years the trees have become a commodity helping residents escape poverty and even make money, the Tin Tuc (News) Newspaper reports.

The biggest forest of sơn tra cultivation is in Lao Chải Commune.

Lờ A Chư, a H’mông tribe member, told the newspaper that his family had earned about VND20million-30million (US$900-1,400) from this year’s crop.

“This was my family’s sơn tra forest, which is about 10-years-old, so the fruits were not as big as those from older trees”, said Chư. “But other families could get much more because their trees were more perennial,” he told the News.

According to Lờ A Chư, the tree used to grow wildly in the forests and no one wanted to pick the fruit because they could not be sold.

But in recent years, the fruits have begun selling and like other families in the commune, Lờ A Chư’s family expanded the Sơn Tra cultivation area.

So far, his family has 2ha of Sơn Tra, half of which has provided income regularly, the paper said.

Like many H’mong households in Mù Cang Chải, his family’s income comes from growing fruit of the Thảo Quả (another speacial tree in the northern mountainous region) and Sơn Tra.

“My 10-member family live on growing Thảo Quả and Sơn Tra trees. In recent years, the weather has changed abnormally, which caused damaged the Thảo Quả crop. But fortunately, my family had a fallback - the Sơn Tra,” the H’mông farmer said.

Another local, Sùng A Chinh, said happily that his family earned VND60,000 million (US$2,700) from more than 2ha of Sơn Tra.

Lê Trọng Khang, deputy head of the Mù Cang Chải District, told the newspaper that authorities have been encouraging  local growers to expand the cultivated areas in the region.

The Son Tra tree was placed on a list of trees for afforestation for many years, he said. But since 2000, the district has found there are many economic and agricultural advantages to the tree.

 “The Sơn Tra tree has a big leaf canopy and roots digging deeply into the soil. Thus the tree is good for preventing land erosion, too,” he said.

“The Sơn Tra flowers are good for beekeeping. The fruits are not only used as natural medicine but also as an ingredient for drinks,” Khang said.

At present, the district has a total of about 2,000ha of Sơn Tra, mainly in the communes of Nậm Có, Nậm Khắt, Lao Chải, Púng Luông, La Pán Tẩn, Chế Cu Nha, and Chế Tạo.

This year, the district yielded about 2,500 tonnes of the fruits with prices ranging from VND15,000-40,000 (0.7 US cents – US$1.8).

Under the plan of Yên Bái Province’s agriculture and rural development sector, the cultivation areas will be expanded to 10,000ha by the year 2020, he said. -- VNS

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