Viet Nam News
HÀ TĨNH — Witnessing it now, one cannot imagine how sterile and deserted the Tây Sơn economic zone in central Hà Tĩnh Province was 14 years ago.
Lying among the greenery of rubber, tea and acacia on the Việt Nam-Lào border – some 30km from the Cầu Treo border pass – the zone is home to some 200 young households who moved here over a decade ago.
On the 82nd anniversary of the founding day of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union – March 26, 2003 – the Hà Tĩnh Youth Union gathered and encouraged a team of provincial newly-wed couples to leave their homes to manage 3,600ha of mountainous land in Sơn Kim 2 Commune in the province’s Hương Sơn District.
Upon their arrival, each household was assigned 1-3ha of agricultural land, 6-10ha of forestland, seeds of tea, rubber, acacia and fruit trees, as well as livestock and allowances to start a new life.
It was such a demanding task for the young couples, as the zone was vast and sparsely populated. It had no electricity, no roads and a scarcity of edible plants.
They held on to the land while several locals, born and bred here, left it for new promised lands.
They learned to fight off mosquitoes, leeches and malaria, assembling huts and shacks to live temporarily in the woods, and renovating forestland for agricultural practice, said team leader Hoàng Thế Lộc.
“Dried fish, jungle vegetables and bitter bamboo shoots were our main food back in those days,” Lộc said.
“We stayed up all night whenever there was heavy rain, because we were afraid of being swept away by flood,” he added.
Several couples gave up on the living conditions, Lộc said. The remaining ones gutted it out to grow tea, rubber and green trees.
The entire zone now enjoys 900ha of acacia, 120ha of rubber and 157ha of tea, 120ha of which produces 12 tonnes of fresh bud tea per ha.
Forty-two-year-old Nguyễn Viết Lĩnh and his wife, born and bred in the plains of Tùng Lộc Commune in the province’s Can Lộc District, were among the first batch of youth to relocate to the zone.
The first few years were particularly difficult for the couple. Apart from their assigned task of growing 3ha of tea, Lĩnh says they spent all of their free time clearing paths in the woods and flattening areas of forestland.
Each time they wanted to purchase necessities, they had to go through 10km of forest to reach the downtown area, he added.
The only path that led from the National Route 8A to the zone was covered in red soil that got sticky every time it rained, he said.
But such hassle is over. Now Lĩnh and his wife have 3ha of tea farm to harvest and five mature cows that can be sold for money.
“In the last three years our team has built a tea factory that can process some 13 tonnes of tea bud per day, which can be sold at a stable price of VNĐ7,000 (US$0.3) per kilogram,” Lĩnh said.
“Last year we were able to build a nice house from VNĐ100 million ($4,400) of profit from selling fresh tea buds,” he added.
Several households are enjoying the fruits of their agricultural practice and livestock farming as they used new techniques to create high productivity, which also helped to provide jobs for other team members.
After 14 years, the team has founded 14 cooperatives and three pig raising groups. One of the groups invested VNĐ30 billion ($1.3 million) in raising 600 sows, earning VNĐ10 billion ($440,000) per year.
The cooperatives and the remaining two groups earn some VNĐ400 million ($17,600) per year by maintaining nine pigsties, each of them housing 600 pigs.
Their livelihoods have been steadied thanks to the pioneering spirit and endurance of youth, said Nguyễn Thế Hoàn, Secretary of the provincial Youth Union.
Allowing young families to build lives in new lands not only gives them the opportunity to grow and prosper, but it also helps to assert sovereignty and ensure border security in distant areas of the country, he added.
The spirit of youth will help them to overcome the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead, he said. — VNS