by Trần Đáng
ĐỒNG NAI - In a house on a small stone-paved alley, a three-year-old girl nicknamed Nhân Thiên (Human Heaven) sits next to a slim, Buddhist nun, selecting seeds to grow vegetables.
The house in Đồng Nai Province, surrounded by a lush green vegetable garden, is home to seven unfortunate children aged two to four who’d been abandoned by parents to poor to rear them.
Buddhist nun Nhân Trúc takes care of the children who were given away to a pagoda in Bạc Liêu Province. Because the pagoda could not afford to take care of the children, Nhân Trúc took the children to Đồng Nai Province, where her parents were born, to raise them.
“We decided to invest in a clean vegetable garden so that the quality produce can be sold to health-conscious customers, and the income used to bring up my children,” she said.
Nhân Trúc is very keen on hi-tech agriculture. She has visited several clean vegetable gardens to learn their practices and invested in net houses and mist spraying systems to grow her own vegetables.
Besides 200sq.m of land in her own house, Nhân Trúc has leased a 1,000sq.m plot to expand cultivation.
She and other nuns grow a variety of vegetables including cải ngọt (choy sum), cải xanh (mustard greens), mồng tơi (ceylon spinach), rau muống (water spinach), hẹ (shallots).
“I spend almost all the day in the garden. I can get home to my children only when it is dark. Farming is a hard job.”
Apart from the physical labour involved, Nhân Trúc has also had to deal with problems like poor productivity and quality of produce.
“Sometimes the vegetables are not big enough because we neither use any chemical spray nor do we add chemicals to the soil. A bed of rau muống (water spinach) in other gardens can yield 50kg, but mine yields just 10kg.”
At first, Nhân Trúc only planted vegetables and sprouts based on orders from customers. But she felt it was a passive method. So she expanded cultivation area and started a delivery service.
Twice every week, Nhân Trúc takes about 50kg of vegetables by motorbike from Đồng Nai Province to HCM City, delivering them to some 30 households there. Each household pays her VNĐ1 million each month.
No matter what the weather, she starts out at 2am for HCM City.
“The delivery takes me the whole day because each customer far from each other. I only come back home in the late evening. It is exhausting, I still have to try to earn a living to nurture the kids,” Nhân Trúc said.
Recently, a customer has started helping her to deliver the vegetables.
Sprouts and soy cakes
Nhân Trúc plans to expand her sprouts cultivation and obtain the VietGAP standard certification.
After two years of learning, she is also able to make high-quality tofu.
“I believe that the high-quality products that I am making will meet market demand. My plan is to provide the produce to restaurants and supermarkets. I believe that customers will by these nutritious products,” she said.
Nhân Truc’s humanitatiran effort has been supported by local associations. Huỳnh Minh Chiến, vice president of Farmers’ Association of Nhơn Trạch District in Đồng Nai Province said that he was ready to advice with investment procedures and help Trúc establish her facility. — VNS