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Idle land ideal for urban buffalo farms

Update: June, 14/2015 - 07:33
Cattle farmer: Nguyen Dinh Thien does well with his herd of healthy buffalo.

Many people in Ha Noi are using abandoned urban construction projects to raise buffalo, earning themselves a very good income. Trung Hieu reports.

Many plots of land earmarked for housing development in outlying Ha Dong District of Ha Noi have become fallow, covered by thick grass, making them the ideal place to raise buffalo, albeit in the streets.

Many locals have established "buffalo farms", creating a high income for their families.

Nguyen Dinh Hoa, 50, living in Yen Nghia Ward, became well-off thanks to raising buffalo.

In early 2010, he started out with five pairs of buffalo, earning sizeable profits. Today, he has more than 50 buffalo. Hoa said his family earns a net profit of some VND200 million (US$9,500) per year.

I wondered how he could raise such a fine herd of fat buffalo in the middle of crowded streets.

Hoa said, "Please look: This urban area has many hectares of land that have been left fallow and are overgrown with grass. There is also a lake nearby. All of this has made my buffalo fat."

Hoa recalled how his original plan to raise buffalo was criticised by his family and friends.

"Everyone said the area was formerly agricultural land but has now become an urban space, so we should not raise buffalo here. Moreover, as we had become city dwellers, they thought we should find jobs worthy of city residents, rather than raising buffalo, which they said 'looked unsightly.'

"Even my wife and children strongly protested, calling me insane for working in the heat of the sun and in the rain," he said, laughing.

Hoa ignored these criticisms. His family had been compensated by the authorities for repossessing their land, and he spent all of this money on the purchase of 10 buffalo, worth more than VND100 million ($4,750).

After only one year, his buffalo gave birth to three calves that grew quickly. He decided to borrow more money and invest it in his new business.

Along the roads in this area, tens of hectares of land dedicated to new urban projects have been abandoned. The landowners had only completed the basic infrastructure for the project before it stalled due to economic difficulties. In some cases, the land had been taken over from the original owners in preparation for urban development but work had not yet begun. All of this land is now overgrown with grass.

These areas provide the ideal location for cattle to graze. When they are satisfied, they bathe in the artificial lakes created for another abandoned project for a park.

Hoa considered the current housing situation and suggested that these lawns may continue to operate as buffalo paddocks for a few more years.

Hoa said if people wanted quick profits, they should buy buffalo from mountainous areas at the right time of year.

"To buy cheap buffalo, we go to the mountainous provinces at the beginning or near the end of the year, around August and September. We go to the Luong Son and Kim Boi districts in Hoa Binh Province and to Moc Chau District in Son La Province to buy cattle from local households."

Hoang Van Duoc from Kien Hung Ward said his farmland was taken over by the government for urban development, creating financial difficulties for his family.

"I saw that the urban construction projects in Kien Hung had not been implemented and noted that the grass could become a major food source for cattle, so I decided to raise buffalo. Thanks to this job, my family's financial situation has improved."

City slickers: Fallow plots of land belonging to idle housing development projects have become fertile buffalo farms. — VNS Photos Hong Lien

His family now raises more than 30 buffalo. On average, he sells about 20 per year, worth VND23-26 million each. So each year, his family earns some VND500 million ($23,800). After expenses, they still have an annual profit of some VND200 million ($9,500).

"This job is so hard; we have to spend the whole day outdoors, but we are compensated with a high income. Last year, my family built our new house, worth more than VND800 million (about $38,000), thanks to the income from this job," he said happily.

Vu Hong Thang, another buffalo keeper in the area, said his cattle were being raised for meat.

"The cattle are sold to markets in Ha Noi and the southern provinces. We bought young buffaloes from the northern mountainous provinces of Bac Kan, Hoa Binh and Lao Cai," he said.

Yen Nghia Ward is home to many households raising buffalo, and one of them is run by young, successful cattle rancher Nguyen Dinh Thien, 28.

Famed for kick-starting the business in this area, he owns the highest number of cattle among his neighbours.

With six years of experience on the job, his family now owns nearly 90 buffalo, and he grazes them on lawns in the Yen Nghia urban development area.

"I never thought I would end up raising buffalo, but I got lucky and took the opportunity when the urban areas started growing large expanses of grass. Raising buffalo brings a high income, so I earn a profit of VND400 million ($19,000) per year after paying for expenses."

Thien boasts that he owns a fighting buffalo that he has raised for six years, claiming many people have wanted to buy it for VND300 million ($14,290) but he has always refused to sell.

"My Yen Nghia Ward now has some six families raising cattle. Along with generating high income, these 'farms' also create jobs for many locals," Thien said. — VNS

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