|Innovation time: Workers at Phung Duy Thanh's shop fix old ploughs.With improvements to suit the conditions, ploughs can turn over twice as much soil. — VNS Photos QuangDan
A farmer on terraced rice fields in the mountainous north found conventional ploughs were inappropriate for the terrain and set about making changes. He has since set up a business in the village making and selling his ploughs. Vu Quang Dan
Farmers in mountainous areas can now enjoy a more bountiful harvest thanks to new ploughs made by Phung Duy Thanh, who lives in Ham Yen District's Tan Yen Town in the northern province of Tuyen Quang.
After many years of research, Thanh figured out how to improve the traditional plough to help people use it more efficiently.
Born in 1973 to a family of blacksmiths, he grew up surrounded by stoves, iron and coal smoke. After graduating from high school in 1990, he chose to stay at home to help his parents with the family business.
Seven years later, he noticed that a plot of land next to his house would be ideal for planting orange trees. So he decided to build a one-ha orange farm. One day, transporting a load of oranges to Ha Noi, Thai Nguyen and Nam Dinh, he saw that farmers there seemed to have an easier time than he and his neighbours did. They used machines to do much of the agricultural work that Thanh used to do by hand.
Back at home, he suggested to his wife that they buy a ploughing machine. But when they tried to use it, they realized the terrain was too mountainous for the plough to work properly.
After a few months of trying to improve the plow, he finally succeeded in creating a model that would work in the terraced fields.
This involved making several small yet critical adjustments to the plow's structure. First, Thanh changed the diameter of each mouldboard from 48cm to 55cm. Then he increased the length of each spoke from 40-45cm to 50-60cm. Finally, he lengthened the axle to 10-15cm and widened the flywheel.
"Fields in my region have a smooth and level surface, so it's difficult to plough with small mouldboards. I increased their diameter to make them more solid," he said.
With these improvements, the new ploughs can turn over twice as much soil.
Nong Huy Tung, vice chairman of the People's Committee of Ham Yen District, said: "The ploughs improved by Thanh are easy to use and raise productivity. They are perfect for fields in mountainous areas."
To meet farmers' demand, Thanh opened a store to sell plough machines in Tan Yen Town. At the time, it was the only such store in the district. There are currently seven employees, most of whom knew nothing about building machines - let alone autogenous welding - when they were hired to work there. But after Thanh provided them with a basic knowledge of the craft, many of the apprentices opened their own stores.
|Handyman: Thanh poses with his improved ploughs at the store.
Thanh feels that this is his greatest achievement in life. He hopes that those who come after him will continue the work.
His customers come from neighbouring districts such as Na Hang and Chiem Hoa as well as nearby provinces including Ha Giang and Yen Bai.
Thanh said he plans to open more stores and establish a workshop specialising in improving farming machines, both to satisfy demand and boost the process of industrialisation and modernisation in rural regions. — VNS