Wednesday, October 26 2016


Ordinary men, extraordinary innovations

Update: June, 07/2015 - 12:40
Conservation: The Agricultural Biology Institute preserves and reproduces many rare orchid varieties. VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

Among the multitudes, there are a few people who not only impress with the courage and ingenuity they show in overcoming adversity, but also in how they use their creativity to help others, Ha Nguyen reports.

Some of them are farmers, some are wounded soldiers, and some are ordinary people, but they all have one thing in common: inventions that have served the country's welfare.

The stories of seriously wounded soldier Dao Viet Thoan, 54, from the northern province of Thai Binh; Trinh Dinh Nang, 58, from the northern province of Bac Kan; Le Van Trung, head of Thanh Loi Organic Cooperative in the southern province of Vinh Long; and many others are miraculous and inspiring.

Thoan, who had been seriously wounded on the border front, has treated more than 24,000 patients with heavy and light burns across the nation. All of them recovered without any side-effects.

He recalled that after he was left with one eye, a right leg wound, and broken right ribs, his army unit sent him for treatment at the 103 Army Hospital.

"My family thought I would not live because of my injuries. I underwent a dozen operations."

Clean technology: Amateur inventor Bui Trong Tuan (Phu Tho) with his cooker that prevents the release of toxic air into the environment.

Medical workers at the hospital skin grafted on his leg many times but it still suffered caseation and revealed bones.

His friend told him about a medicinal herb that can help improve and develop muscles. The herb was grown by superior bonze Thich Dam Lien at Trang Pagoda in Huu Le Village, Ha Noi.

Thoan went to that pagoda to apply medicines processed from traditional herbs. Impressed by Thoan's energy, righteousness, and kind heart, the pagoda head adopted him and made every effort to rescue him, while sharing with him the secret concoction of his medicines.

After a year of treatment at the pagoda, Thoan could walk with crutches. He returned to his village, An Quy in Thai Binh to apply the knowledge he acquired at the pagoda and treat burns.

Talking about his medicinal method, Thoan said instead of applying ointment on the burn with dry medical dressing, he applies ointment on dressing that had been soaked on pure salted water and then squeezed.

"The method also helps reduce pain very much," Thoan added.

Healer: Dao Van Thoan in the northern province of Thai Binh treats a burned patient.

He noted that to make the medicine, he uses traditional herbs such as fresh saffron, honey, passion-flowers, cay chia voi ( Cissus repens Lamk.), excipients, and others that are available in any locality in the country.

"All the ingredients should be dehydrated and powdered," he said.

People with different intensities of burns approach Thoan and go back assured and happy. Fifty-six-year-old Tran Thi Tham had approached Thoan for help after she spilt boiling water and seriously burnt both her legs. She said it pained so much that she thought she would die.

"Thanks to Thoan's medicine, I feel much better," she remarked, adding that the herbalist told her that she can recover in two weeks.

Another patient, Pham Van Minh, 59, was grilling a cuttlefish with alcohol and ended up burning himself from chest down till his feet.

"I suffered a violent pain initially, but I feel much comfortable right after Thoan applied some medicine on my burns. After taking treatment at his home for several days, I have recovered 90 per cent," Minh said.

Medical centres have also taken note of Thoan's skills. Dang Ngoc Huy, head of the Thai Binh's An Quy Clinic, pointed out that the clinic had been co-ordinating with Thoan to treat patients.

Elsewhere, in Bac Kan's Song Cau Ward, Trinh Dinh Nang, 58, got the world to sit up and take notice of his invention: a self-contained furnace that can incinerate solid waste from hospitals.

His machine has been approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

It works like this: Trinh Dinh Nang (second from right) in Bac Kan Province made a kiln to burn medical waste.

Nang, a former worker of Thai Nguyen Steel Plant, recalled his doctor father often complaining about serious pollution caused by hospital waste.

"I myself have witnessed hazardous waste discarded by hospitals threatening the health of communities."

"I would spend many days and nights thinking I should find a way to deal with hundreds of tonnes of waste discharged from hospitals every day," Nang said.

After three years of research, in 2012, Nang successfully finished his incinerator, receiving a sole invention certificate from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Do Tuan Khiem, director of the Bac Kan Department of Science and Technology, said Nang's machine is suitable for small and medium health clinics and hospitals that do not generate much waste compared with large hospitals such as Bach Mai and Viet Duc in Ha Noi.

Khiem insisted that Nang's machine is far superior to similar products manufactured in other countries.

Nang's incinerator uses self-contained Nano technology to completely disintegrate smoke, dust, and harmful fumes. It costs the unit only VND5,000 of diesel or VND2,000 of waste oil to burn 1kg of waste.

For a similar machine imported from the US, the UK or Japan, users will have to pay VND70,000-80,000 to treat a kilogram of waste.

After his machine was put into operation, Nang received a lot of orders from companies in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and China.

For example, a leading machinery inventor in Germany wanted to buy his invention for 300,000 euro (nearly VND10 billion).

"I refused their offers but agreed to co-operate with them to produce the machine because my aim is not profit but Vietnamese community's welfare," said Nang.

In 2013 Nang set up Hoa Tu Long Industrial Heat Company at Nam Doi Than Village in Bac Kan Town to manufacture the incinerator, which is now widely used in hospitals across the nation.

Unlike Thoan and Nang, 48-year-old farmer Le Van Trung, who is head of the Thanh Loi Cooperative of Organic Vegetable, introduced a new plant growing technique that revolutionised farming in the country.

In 2007, Trung accompanied the Vinh Long delegation to Japan to learn about Japanese agricultural techniques.

"During the visit, I got to understand the process of growing organic and safe vegetables, particularly the Japanese dau bap or muop (loofah).

"After scouting several interior markets in Japan for a while, I managed to buy 100 seeds," Trung recalled.

Apart from his research and reading about growing techniques, Trung approached the Southern Fruit Research Institute (SOFRI) seeking scientists' help in cultivating saplings.

About 70 per cent of the seeds he had brought from Japan sprouted.

Unlike the local variety, the Japanese loofah has good, high resistance to pestilent insects, yielding plenty of fruit with dark skin, said Trung.

Farmers can harvest 50 days after planting. Each hectare gives 2-3 tonnes of fruit.

Recently, a Singapore-based company placed an order for 1 tonnes of loofah a day from his co-operative.

"We have successfully carried out a trial model to preserve fruit according to demand from this foreign partner."

In addition, Thanh Loi co-operative has signed contracts with 3 large companies in Can Tho, Hau Giang, and Tien Giang to sell them 200 tonnes of loofah to be exported to Japan.

The co-operative has distributed free seeds to farmers in the area to grow loofah and has signed contracts to purchase their products for VND5,000-7,500 per kilogram.

In addition, the co-operative conducts training courses to guide farmers on correct planting methods and how to deal with pestilent insects, as well as the techniques to use biological medicine to ensure products' safety.

Trung's neighbour Huynh Van Duong said he planted loofah on his 3,000sq.m of land because it brings him triple income compared with growing rice, or a profit of VND53 million per crop.

Trung said a hundred farmer families, holding acreage up to 50ha, in his village have registered for loofah cultivation.

"With this, our co-operative will be able to increase the supply of loofah to many other companies in HCM City and Mekong Delta provinces, as well as some foreign countries," said Trung, adding that his co-operative will export the fruit to Japan and Europe for prices much higher than that in local markets.

Encouraging push

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, at a meeting with 63 amateur inventors in Ha Noi last month, said the Government would come up with more preferential policies to encourage research and creativity among businesses.

"Every invention should be accepted and multiplied. We should help them gain access to capital investments, as well as purchase their products and protect their intellectual property rights," the Prime Minister remarked.

He asked the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), relevant agencies, and localities to take necessary measures, such as finding outputs for inventors.

MST Minister Nguyen Quan agreed with the Prime Minister, saying his ministry would improve guidelines and help inventors register their intellectual property rights and promote their products.

The ministry has assisted hundreds of inventors across the nation in registering with national Techmart and in establishing networks with local and foreign partners to sell more than 30,000 technologies and equipment, he added.

Quan asked provincial science and technology departments to advise provincial People's Committees to organise annual meetings of amateur inventors, while deservedly rewarding them.

"The Fund for National Technology Renewal should be activated to meet with inventors and to guide them on implementing their projects in accordance with the fund's requirements," said Minister Quan.

Sharing the views of Prime Minister Dung and Minister Quan, Trung proposed that scientists, investors, and State agencies should co-operate with farmers to make their produce available to all regions in the country.

"The MST and related agencies should create a website and establish an association for 'barefoot' inventors so they can exchange views and experiences with each other," Trung pointed out.

Meanwhile, inventor Nang in Bac Kan proposed relevant agencies to step up their approval process for inventions and give preferential loans for product promotion.

Nguyen Tan Bien, 62, from the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, who invented a machine that can peel green beans, said the State should establish concrete methods to help farmers use machines to boost production and trade. — VNS

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