|Seeds of change: Thanks to local agronomists like Pham S, Lam Dong Province developed the "Da Lat Vegetables" brand, which includes 13 farm products from Da Lat, Don Duong andø Duc Trong. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha
by Thai Bieu
Most farmers in Da Lat resort city in Lam Dong Province have come to know a tall man with a moustache. He often visits their gardens, checking their vegetables and fruit.
His name is Pham S, a scientist from Lam Dong Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, renowned among locals for helping them improve the fruits of their labour.
Talking with us, Pham S says, "Being a scientist, I understand the feelings and aspirations of farmers. That's why I frequently visit their farms, ready to advise and guide them, and share their problems."
His scientific research aims to improve cultivation and the quality of life of farmers.
One of his successes has been the mass planting of a new variety of bo tree (Persea Americana). In 2002, Pham S helped spread the growth of this plant by agomically multiplying high-quality saplings to ensure a high consistency of crops to be harvested after three years.
Lam Dong bo is now a coveted specialty crop, fetching VND145 million (US$7,000) per hectare each year. Farmers who had previously ignored the crop have been able to reap the gains of the plant.
On another occasion, Pham S and his colleagues were called in to study orchards in three southern districts of Lam Dong where, in recent years, produce had slumped with a lack of productive crops, despite the region's fertile land.
The results of the study led the group to develop valuable policy insights; encouraging farmers to cultivate fruit trees and supporting others in the southern region to 'commoditise' their fruit.
Having worked for many years in the tea industry, Pham S knows the hardship of farmers: harvesting tea in the rainy season, working so hard for very little and after all that - facing the hard slog of selling their produce.
The images of struggling farmers spurred him to develop machines for tea picking. The project was soon approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology for deployment in Bao Lam District.
His efforts were also rewarded in his campaign to register the brand of speciality rice grown in Cat Tien. Leveraging years of knowledge and experience, Pham S talked with district leaders about how to complete documents, with the Cat Tien rice brand soon accepted by the Department of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam.
|Green thumb: Scientist Pham S visiting a farm in Da Lat.
Desire to master science
Since Viet Nam joined the WTO, Pham S has spent time participating in short-term training courses hosted by international organisations. The training has given him access to new knowledge, which he has used to train more than 1,500 farmers, businessmen and district managers.
He has received certification from the German Trade Organisation's GLOBALGAP (Good Agricultural Practice) standards, FAO's food safety control, the Australian Department of Agriculture and other organisations.
Although he is busy with his management job, Pham S is still directly involved in scientific research, developing initiatives to exploit the comparative advantages of Lam Dong.
To date, he has published 50 scientific works and presented at scientific conferences domestically and abroad. He is also the author of six scientific books and penned a university curriculum.
The Department of Intellectual Property even gave him a brand copyright, a patent and second prize in the State's Science and Technology awards.
But Pham S is not a man to sit and ponder his achievments. He spends time passing on the wisdom of his experience guiding six post- graduate students, helping to train the younger generations of Lam Dong Province.
His contributions also extend to advising the Government. While working at the Lam Dong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, he headed the Agriculture High-Technology Programme, responsible for analyzing and forecasting market trends and providing advisory support to the provincial People's Committee.
The Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour also awarded him seven creative labour diplomas.
But the proof of Pham S's efforts are in the pudding. He has helped raise Lam Dong Province's average farming income to VND76 million ($3,500) per ha, more than 2.3 times the country's average level.
"My biggest success in my working life was in 2009. The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development became one of few provincial level offices in Viet Nam to attract ODA (official development assistance from foreign countries)," he says.
"The department director has assigned me to directly participate in negotiations and manage international projects. In September 2009, I directed six international projects, of which a project to develop cocoa farms in three southern districts, sponsored by ACDIVOCA organisation, has been rated by ACDIVOCA's General Director as the fastest project among their programmes in the world."
With responsibilities as Director of the Department of Science and Technology, Pham S continues to carry out projects that use scientific and technological solutions to serve socio-economic development in the province.
There are now plans to construct a centre for development of biotechnology and high-tech agriculture.
"Every one of my creative labour diplomas that notes the results of my work contains the teachings of President Ho Chi Minh: 'initiatives and experience are the nation's treasure. If we do not appreciate initiatives and experience that means we waste the nation's capital',"Pham S says. — VNS