|Field of gold: Chang A Ky, the village chief, works on his family's corn field. The new crop could help him raise his annual income tenfold. — VNS Photo Nguyen Duy
by Nguyen Duy and Ha Nguyen
A Mong ethnic man Chang A Ky has helped his villagers in applying technology to boost production and thus helping them escape hunger and poverty.
Ky, 42, has been the head of Chin Chu Chai Hamlet of the northern province of Lai Chau's Nung Nang Village of Tam Duong District, for more than 16 years now.
Ky said he has been reading newspapers and books as well as seeking information from the Internet (at his village people's committee office) to collect knowledge and understand others' experiences to enhance production in his hamlet by using technology.
He borrowed money from his relatives and friends to buy a ploughing machine because he knew that deep ploughing and careful raking will lead to a bumper crop.
He also learned ways to care for the crops by studying the experience of outstanding farmers from the lowland provinces of Hung Yen and Hai Duong who cultivated cardamom, wet rice and maize.
As a result, he could earn more than VND100 million per year from these crops, compared to VND10-12 million that he used to make earlier.
"Such a difference in income is very big for a Mong household like ours. Apart from investing in enhancing production, I used the money for my children to study in Lai Chau City and equip my home with a TV set, a refrigerator and other facilities," said Ky, adding that his 80-year-old parents are very happy because they could now enjoy improved living standards compared to what life was before.
All the residents of Chin Chu Chai Hamlet are Mong ethnics.
Several years ago, the villagers faced a real threat of hunger and poverty. Some of the households used to experience hunger for three to four months a year.
Despite this, their thinking and habits were still very regressive.
"Asking them to effect a change in their daily routine, or apply new technique to enhance production was very difficult," Ky said.
"But, as the head of the hamlet, I considered it my responsibility to help them make that change to boost production and thus escape hunger and poverty," he said.
Although he had to climb the hill every day and trudge down, he was very keen to go to each household to talk to his fellow people, convincing them to change their way of planting rice and maize, to increase their yield.
"I had to go to each of the villagers' homes many a time to guide them on how to use fertiliser, how to grow rice and maize in the right way so that it could give stable yield. I also guided them about how to harvest their farm produce in an appropriate manner," Ky said.
He also invited villagers to visit his own field as a fact-finding tour.
Since then, many households decided to follow him and worked as per his advice, opting to apply technology in production.
As a result, they have not only managed to escape hunger and poverty but also have enough money to buy a motorbike or household utensils and equipment.
As of now, the hamlet has only 41 families which are still poor, compared to the situation in the past when it had 100 per cent households listed as poor.
Apart from helping his villagers change their thinking and teach them new farming ways, Ky often raises awareness about laws such as regulations governing road traffic, dealing with the menace of drugs and prostitution and ways to prevent HIV/AIDS as well as laws to protect the forests and change backward habits.
"My efforts are aimed at helping my villagers understand the laws and then implement them well in their daily life. I wish to build a civilised and orderly hamlet in such a high mountainous region," Ky said.
Similarly, Tran Dinh Thi of Coc Tum Hamlet of the northwestern province of Lao Cai's Phong Nien Village of Bao Thang District has tried to bring economically viable fruit trees such as custard apple, pomelo and longan from Hung Yen and Nam Dinh to grow in his hamlet on a trial basis.
Fortunately, his trees developed very well because these were suitable to the mountain climate and yielded a profit of more than VND120 million for his family every year.
Following Thi, many other families in the hamlet also planted these trees which earned them a stable income.
Having understood that these trees had become a strong point of the locality, the Bao Thang People's Committee has carried out a project to improve and develop them as economically viable for the 2013-15 period in the two villages of Phong Nien and Xuan Quang.
Hoang A Ly in Phong Nien Village was one of volunteers to make that change in his garden. Since 2010, he planted nearly 700 custard apple trees. After three years, they yielded a bumper crop.
Last year alone, he earned more than VND100 million from the fruit.
"I've planted more than 1,300 custard apple trees this year. I hope we could earn twice as much than what we earn currently," said Ly.
An additional 480 families have joined the project, planting nearly 10,000 longan and 75,000 custard apple trees, increasing the acreage under these trees in the two villages to nearly 1,000ha or 220ha more than was initially planned.
Do Hong Quan, deputy head of the Bao Thang People's Committee's Economics Office, said the project was the first to have applied graft technique on the trees.
"The rate of trees' survival following the grafting is much higher than was thought of earlier. It would help us open a specialised zone for custard apple and longan trees in our district in the future," Quan said. — VNS