Wednesday, June 20 2018

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Quảng Trị’s barefoot "bank owner" helps farmers escape poverty

Update: January, 29/2018 - 11:00
Hữu stands in his acacia garden in the central province of Quảng Trị. — Photo nongnghiep.vn
Viet Nam News

QUẢNG TRỊ — Đặng Quang Hữu, 44, of Đakrông District in the central province of Quảng Trị, is known as a bank owner who has risen from owning nothing to offering loans to 600 poor local households. Unlike other financiers, he requires no interest payments, supporting them as they grow forests to escape from poverty.

Hữu was born in Gia Đằng Village – a poor village near the sea in Triệu Phong District. He left his hometown in 2003 to work in Hướng Hóa Forestry Enterprise in Đakrông District in the hope of escaping poverty.

No longer after, he met and married his wife, a Vân Kiều ethnic minority woman named Hồ Thị Hương. They married without money, but with love and ideas to build a prosperous life together.

At first, the couple decided to grow forest under the encouraging policies from the Government at that time, the Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.

“I had to borrow money from a bank to buy the first seedlings to grow 1ha of acacia forest,” he said.

After several months, the baby acacia trees grew day by day. Five years later, Hữu had 21ha of acacia forest. Hữu then started planting cassava and running an acacia seedling garden. He earned profits of nearly VNĐ1 billion (US$44,000) each year.

“At that time, I thought, ‘I finally escaped from poverty, so, why can’t other people?” he said.

“I start thinking of how to help them to get out of poverty,” he added.

He thought of inviting people to see how he planted the acacia forest and lending them money to buy acacia seedlings as well as hire an agricultural tractor to till land.

Hữu’s story of becoming a banker began there.

Hữu initially made loans only with the money he had. People did not have to pay any interest.

Then, when the number of people borrowing from him increased, Hữu decided to borrow money from banks under the Government’s Programme 30A, with a low interest rate of 0.29 per cent each year. He used the money to lend to the local poor people, who still had to pay no interest.

The money that local people borrowed from him fluctuated between several millions of đồng to dozens of millions of đồng. Some borrow money from him and pay back within a year or two, while some take more than 10 years.

It is estimated that he lends people a total of VNĐ1.5 billion ($66,000) each year.

600 households escape poverty

Hồ Văn Vân, 40, of the district’s Hướng Hiệp Commune, said that several years ago, he was very poor. “My income even could not cover daily expenses,” he said. “But Hữu helped me. He lent me 3,000 acacia seedlings and he even lent me money enough to hire an agricultural tractor to till land for growing the trees.”

It costs about VNĐ20 million ($880) to till land and buy seedlings to grow 1ha of acacia forest. If a farmer plants 1ha of cassava, it costs about VNĐ15 million ($660).

Vân now has 5ha of acacia forest and 1ha of cassava. He earns about VNĐ300 million ($13,200) each year.

Hồ Văn Nguyên, of the district’s Mò Ó Commune, said he already borrowed VNĐ22 million ($968) from Hữu to plant 4ha of cassava last year.

Nguyên said he could pay the money for Hữu now but he already asked Hữu to let him pay the debt one year later so that Nguyên could buy a new agricultural tractor. Hữu agreed.

Nguyễn Thị Hà, chairwoman of the district’s Farmer’s Association, said Hữu was a good example for local people there.

"He sparked the will to escape poverty for many people in the district," she said.

Thanks to Hữu, the local people have planted about 1,000ha of acacia forest and 500ha of cassava so far.

Lê Phúc Thiện, chairman of the provincial Farmer’s Association, said Hữu was a farmer with great kindness.

Hữu received the award of “The most compassionate farmer of Việt Nam”, given by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Central Commission of Propaganda and Training in late 2016. He was also gifted Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc’s certificate of merit to honour him as an outstanding farmer of the country.

Hữu said “My dream is not becoming richer, my dream is helping poor farmers escaping from poverty,” he said. — VNS

 

 

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