|Two in hand: Do Manh Hung takes care of trionychid turtles at his farm. -- VNS Photos Phuong Thuan
by Van Tuan-Ha My
From a poor veteran, one who had been continuously suffering losses, Do Manh Hung, 54, now lives in Ky Son Town, Ky Son District, the northern province of Hoa Binh, as a billionaire. And this is not all; he has also helped other local households in enhancing their family income.
Receiving us in his spacious house that Hung and his wife built after raising for many years trionychid turtles (Tryonyx steinachderi) and porcupines patiently, Hung seemed happy.
"I returned from army service and I married at a time when both of us were penniless," he said.
The couple borrowed VND20 million (US$950) from a bank to set up two brick-kilns, but even after 20 years of that work, they were still poor. Hung decided to go in for a change: raising trionychid turtles.
When people came to know his plan, many thought Hung was making a huge mistake because till then, no local resident had been successful with the model.
"At first, I bought more than ten pairs of trionychid turtles to raise for meat. But I lacked the technique and skills to raise them, and they fell sick. I was nearly penniless after the first harvest," said Hung.
Seeing Hung fail, his neighbours and relatives advised him to give it up, but he insisted and became even more determined to study ways to raise trionychid turtles effectively.
Hung went to the northern mountainous provinces of Son La and Yen Bai to search for the kind of trionychid turtles that were suitable for the weather in Hoa Binh Province. He then bought 50 pairs of trionychid turtles to raise.
Thanks to Hung's better care, he was successful and earned dozens of millions of dong.
Today, Hung's turtles are famous in the area. Many traders order turtles from him.
|Looking sharp: Hung's porcupines are famous and in great demand.
Hung did not stop at solf-shelled turtles. In 2008, he saw that raising porcupines for meat was also profitable, and went to Son La to buy 10 pairs of breeding porcupines at a price of VND15 million ($700) a pair.
Soon, seeing that porcupines were strong, easy to raise and brought high productivity, he bought 50 more pairs.
At present, he is raising nearly 200 porcupines of different sizes.
Hung said that each pair of grown-up porcupines could be sold at VND25-27 million ($1,190-1,280), each pregnant porcupine could be sold at VND40 million ($1,900) and each pair of small porcupine could be sold at VND16 million ($760).
Every year, after deducting expenses, Hung earned more than VND1 billion ($47,600) of profits from raising trionychid turtles and porcupines.
Thanks to the work, he also created jobs for many local youth.
Helping poor residents
Having gathered experience over many years of raising turtles and porcupines, he opened classes to transfer his know-how to local residents.
If any poor household did not have enough capital, he supported them with breeding animals and technique.
Hung also joined hand with the Ky Son District Farmers' Association to set up a project to support 20 households to raise porcupines with a total fund of VND200 million ($9,500).
Not only residents in Ky Son District, but residents from other districts including Kim Boi, Mai Chau and Lac Thuy also came to his house to study his technique. Some also came from provinces such as Ha Nam and Hung Yen.
Each of Hung's porcupine cage is about 1.5sq.m.
"I number each cage to supervise the porcupine easily. I also build underground sewage to reduce the bad smell," he said.
"The cages must be warm during winter and cool during summer.
"Thanks to the airy atmosphere, the porcupines will not be hit by diseases."
To raise turtles successfully, a farmer should pay attention to their living environment.
Each 30-40sq.m pond can contain 100 breeding trionychid turtles.
"Food for them is also easy to find, including small fish, worms, snails and small frogs," he said.
The pond water should be renewed every two months and all left-over food must be fished out.
Hung's family is also famous in Ky Son District for its well-behaved and hard-working children.
"Knowledge is necessary and acts as the foundation for my children to support themselves. Hence, my wife and I pay a lot of attention to their education," said Hung.
Hung always reminds his children about his own hard days so that they respect the value of hard work and labour. As a result, his children have inherited his hard-working character. — VNS