|Border Guard officers helping farmers harvest passion fruit. — Photo tienphong.vn|
SƠN LA — Lóng Sập, a border commune in northern mountainous Sơn La Province, used to be ridden with crime, but now things are starting to turn for the better.
"The people here are haunted by poverty," said Colonel Sa Trọng Thời, Political Officer at the Lóng Sập Border Gate.
"They are also uninformed, leading to crime such as drugs and smuggling. Creating opportunities for people to do business here is a key to stop them from criminal acts."
"People in Phiêng Cài Village of Lóng Sập used to grow corn, potatoes and tapioca," said Lieutenant Mùa Láo Xuân.
"But those crops did not generate enough money and people were dragged into drug smuggling. We started a programme to help people convert from corn to growing passion fruit in 2017. Since then, many households' economic situation started to look positive."
Tráng Láo Xi, a farmer, said: "Passion fruit is the gold mine for our family. We used to grow corn, but that only helped us make ends meet. With passion fruit, we have a new TV set, new bed, new wardrobe!"
Xi has 160 passion fruit plants and harvested three tonnes of fruits last year, earning VNĐ40 million (US$1,725).
His neighbour, Tráng Láo Tú, is also busy with his passion fruit. "Despite the pandemic, we harvested 15 tonnes of passion fruits, earning average VNĐ15-20 million each tonne," he said.
"In 2017, the Mộc Châu Ward People's Committee supported us with fertilisers, and the Border Gate officers supplied 600 passion fruit trees. Officers helped us plant the trees and reminded us how to grow them well. That's why our fruits are so profitable."
Colonel Thời said, in some areas of Lóng Sập, the weather was great for growing passion fruits, so the border officers advised the Mộc Châu Ward People's Committee to help households grow passion fruits, with initial funding of VNĐ100 million.
"We started with four poor households with large land plots to test the growing of passion fruit trees. Initially, we carefully researched this plant and coordinated with localities and businesses to support funding and transfer technology," said Thời.
"Passion fruit trees are very suitable for the climate and soil in Lóng Sập. It took about 5-6 months for the crops to be harvested and 3-4 years for the plants to be replanted. The first year can produce 30-40 tonnes per hectare, the second year can yield 70-80 tonnes per hectare, and farmers can achieve profits from VNĐ100-200 million per hectare annually. People will look to each other to do business here, and if everyone is busy doing business, nobody will listen to criminals."
The model of growing passion fruit trees has even crossed the border and helped households in Sopbao, Houphanh, in Laos with one hectare of passion fruit crop in production.
"To be closer to the people, we must help them develop their economy and earn their trust," said Colonel Nguyễn Đình Huân, Commander of the Sơn La Border Guards.
"Only then can the integrity and safety of the nation's border be protected." — VNS