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Woman turns barren land into organic farm

Update: October, 15/2019 - 09:56


Phùng Thị Thơ (second on the right, in front row), checks a grapefruit tree. VNS Photo Đỗ Bình

By Đỗ Bình

HÀ NỘI — It has been a long journey with plenty of tears shed along the way.

But after twenty years of toil, Phùng Thị Thơ has turned infertile land in Hà Nội’s mountainous Ba Vì District into something very special.

She dared to do what others never, and now she is seeing the fruits of her labour flourish.

"I never thought I could succeed," said Thơ.

“People thought I was taking a great risk when I decided to develop this land and that it is impossible because of lack of water and the hard laterite rock restructures making it very difficult for holding water and the vegetation to grow.”

Thơ was born in 1960, in a poor family in the district’s Vật Lại Commune. After demobilised from the army in 1982, she got married and began agriculture.

In 1997, she called on her family to sign a 50-year-contract with local authority to cultivate on 12ha of barren land as part of afforestation promotion programme.

Having land and the help of friends and relatives, her family started building a garden-pond-cage model.

Choosing which seedlings and animals to raise was next, working out the best options to reap rewards and ensure the family’s livelihood as well as the study of children.

"I never thought I could succeed," said Thơ.

The early years were tough, and time after time Thơ thought about giving up.

Instead she sought out experts to learn the best methods and took part in training classes organised by the local farmers’ union.

“At first, my family plant green beans, then jicama,” Thơ said.

“The money from selling this crop was used to pay for hired workers and to cultivate grapefruits and longans. We took the profit from short-term crops to invest in long-term projects.”

Efforts made by Thơ’s family has been paid off. The land, which was once uncultivable, is now a sea of yellow with thousands of pineapples at harvest time surrounding the hill.

“I am successful because I have chosen the right plant which is suitable to the climate and soil conditions of the locality,” she said, adding that pineapple is resistant to drought and erosion so it is still the main crop of her farm.

Thơ and her family regularly research and apply advances in science and technology into production such as investing in automatic watering system to ensure the best condition for plants to grow and treat animal waste with microorganisms to limit the impacts on the environment.

Once becoming better-off, Thơ expanded to increase income for her family as well as create jobs for other labourers in the commune.

Now, her family has nearly 20ha of farm growing pineapples, grapefruits and longan.

Besides growing fruits, Thơ has also raised cows, buffaloes, pigs, chickens and fish.

The turnover from the farm has reached nearly VNĐ20 billion (US$862,200) per year and profit of over VNĐ1 billion.

About 30 workers are employed on the farm earning between VNĐ4-7 million per month.

Nguyễn Thị Hà, a local resident, said she has been working for the farm for more than 10 years.

“During idle time between crops, I often worked as hired labour for Thơ’s family to improve the income for my family and have more knowledge about plant cultivation,” she said.

Many people in the locality have received help from Thơ’ family in terms of capital and seedlings to develop production and get rid of poverty, Hà said.

Đỗ Quang Hà, chairman of Vật Lại Farmers’ Union, said Thơ was a shining example of someone who dared to renovate and persisted with their ideas.

“Twenty years ago, when Ba Vì district had a policy of encouraging people to reclaim land and afforestation to barren hills, only Thơ could dared to receive the land, " said Hà.

Phùng Huy Kiên, vice chairman of Vật Lại Commune’s People’s Committee said Thơ is an inspiring individual.

If this model can be replicated in the locality, income of local residents would be improved, he said.

With her achievements, Thơ has received a lot of merit certificates, including one for excellent farmers in 2012-2014.

She was among 100 outstanding women honoured at the 12th National Women Congress held in 2017 and Thơ was among 63 outstanding farmers who have good achievements in production and participation in the Farmer Association’s movements honoured by the Central Farmers Association this year.  — VNS


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