BẾN TRE — A teacher in a remote commune of the southern province of Bến Tre has been successful in producing organic incense made from the wild water plant quao nước or mangrove trumpet.
Ngô Song Đào, 51, is a teacher of biology at Phước Hiệp Commune Secondary School in Mỏ Cày District.
Her product has been sold widely in the market and her production facility provides jobs for dozens of local female workers.
Đào is not only a good teacher but also takes part in guiding students in scientific research.
For five consecutive years, from 2013 to 2018, she guided students to win six prizes at the provincial Science and Technology Competition, three prizes at the National Science and Technology Competition and the first prize in the competition "Co-creation Journey" in the seven southern provinces in the 2019-2020.
In the process of teaching biology and guiding students to research, Đào always worries about people using traditional incense made from sawdust and chemicals that are harmful to health.
In 2013, she started researching incense from mangrove trumpet plants that grow widely in her garden and canals.
Đào told Nhân Dân (People) Newspapers: “When I was a child, I used to follow my mother to the paddy field and use the mangrove trumpet leaves to rub the skin to avoid being bitten by insects, especially mosquito.”
“From my childhood memories, I came up with the idea to make mosquito incense from this plant,” Đào said.
“The leaves do not have essential oils, so it is difficult to burn. I have to mix with two kinds of other herbs to create essential oils and aroma,” she said.
“After more than three years of research with more than a dozen times having to change the formula, I succeeded in implementing a start-up project which won the consolation prize of the National Start-up Competition in 2017,” the teacher said.
From the initial success, the teacher in the remote area boldly established a company named Thiên Phúc Manufacturing and Trading Co., Ltd., to produce biological incense and register a patent.
The product was certified to have no harmful substances by the Centre for Analysis and Testing of HCM City.
However, in the early days, production was not as easy as she thought.
“At that time, I had to learn everything, from machine operation to market development knowledge to business strategy from the province's start-up and business development programme,” she recalled.
“After that, I got a loan of VNĐ500 million (US$21,000) from the Adaption on Mekong Delta (AMD) Project to build a production facility and buy machinery,” she said.
Currently, the product is popular in Hà Nội, HCM City and neighbouring localities.
Job creation for poor women
|Đào's establishment creates jobs for elderly women in her commune. Photo nhandan.vn
Teacher Đào's production establishment went into operation and created jobs for nearly a dozen poor and elderly women in the locality.
Nguyễn Thị Lũy, a 60-year-old resident in Hòa Hưng Hamlet of Hòa Lộc Commune, said: “Since Đào’s incense making workshop came into operation, I applied for a job as making, drying and packaging incense sticks that helped me earn extra income.”
“The work is not too hard so the elderly and women can do it with an income of VNĐ2 to 3 million ($85-128) per month,” Luỹ said.
The family of Trần Thị Ánh, 60 years old and living in Hoà Lộc Commune, has now escaped poverty by working at teacher Đào's incense workshop for more than three years.
Ánh said: “Four years ago, my family was classified as a poor household. My husband and I had to work as hired labourers to pay the tuition fee of our daughter who was studying nursing in Cần Thơ Province.”
“Since working for Đào, I have a stable monthly income, so I can pay for my daughter’s studies and pay off the debt gradually,” she said.
“In addition, when I do not have enough money to pay tuition fees, Đào pays me in advance and then deducts from my salary, so I do not have to borrow from a usury service,” she said.
Recently, Ánh's family was removed from the list of poor households because her family has a stable income. Her daughter also graduated from school and got a job.
At the incense workshop, Ánh is in charge of grinding dry leaves and herbs to mix incense ingredients with a salary of VNĐ25,000 per hour. The job is suitable for elderly female workers.
Mangrove trumpet plants grow naturally throughout the canals and coconut gardens in Mỏ Cày District.
It is a wild plant that people believe keeps land from sliding. People collect the leaves for Đào's organic incense production facility to earn extra income for their families.
In recent years, Nguyễn Thị Đôi, in Hamlet No. 5 of Phước Hiệp Commune, has earned income from selling dried leaves of the plant.
Đôi said: “This year, I am 75 years old and can no longer work as a hired worker.”
“Since Đào’s company buys dried leaves of the mangrove trumpet plant, my family earns more than VNĐ1 million per month,” Đối said.
Nguyễn Thị Kim Thoa, chairwomen of Bến Tre Women Union said that teacher Đào is an example of a typical woman in Bến Tre Province who not only successfully completed her teaching career but also participated in the programme of start-up and business development, creating jobs for many poor women in the area.
In 2020, she was honored to receive the Việt Nam Women's Award by the Việt Nam Women's Talent Award Fund.
Đào also actively participates in charity activities.
So far, she donated more than VNĐ600 million to the commune’s social welfare fund.
“In the past, my family was very poor, my parents had to work from dawn to dusk for our sisters to study,” the teacher said.
“Now, I want to help people. Every year, I donate clothes and books for poor students,” she said. — VNS