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Bamboo straw maker gets back to nature

Update: February, 17/2019 - 09:00
Going wild: Visitors to the bamboo farm of Lê Xuân Hà. - Photo tienphong.vn
Viet Nam News

by Hoàng Hoa

HÀ NỘI — Imagine waking up in a house made of bamboo, washing your hair with dry fruit, bathing in leaves and brushing your teeth with natural toothpaste made from salted lemon and betel leaves.

That’s a way of life that costs almost nothing and Lê Xuân Hà, a 28-year-old nature lover from the central province of Thanh Hóa, believes that this is the best way to reduce waste and protect the environment.

With the desire to share this eco-friendly lifestyle, Hà, who owns a bamboo forest covering nearly 10ha in Hón Mũ, Tân Thành Commune, has welcomed visitors to his bamboo farm to live ‘green’.

Hà tried a number of careers before realising he was unhappy with the pace of life in the city. In 2013, he left the city and returned to his hometown in Hón Mũ.

The land that Hà saw for the first time five years ago was empty. Now, 90 per cent is covered with bamboo.

Forest man: Lê Xuân Hà, a 28-year-old nature lover, thinks that an eco-friendly lifestyle is the best way to save nature. - Photo tienphong.vn

Talking about his eco-friendly farm, Hà said: “I didn’t want to make it a tourism spot. My visitors must be people who share a love for nature. They are advised not to bring much money, cosmetics or food to the forest.

"They can grow vegetables, make houses from bamboo if they want to stay for longer, meditate and talk with the owner about health, plants and the way to limit waste. Many people from cities visited my farm out of curiosity but then found it interesting to live here and practise survival skills in the forest. Then they stayed for longer.

“The longest stay so far has been two and a half years. Some came in pairs like a young couple from Hà Nội who stayed here for nearly one year. They left the farm to go backpacking and then came back.”

The visitor that left the strongest impression on Hà was a 56-year-old man from Hải Phòng City who has been living with his mother his whole life.

“He stayed here for ten months and we found we had a lot in common, especially a love for nature. Living in the forest, he learned how to cook, chop firewood and build houses by himself,” Hà said.

However, he does not want to welcome too many visitors as “they come to his farm and find clean vegetables, organically raised chickens and pigs to bring back to the city” and a “growing number of visitors means the environment will become worse”.

Bamboo straws

Making use of old bamboo in the forest, Hà also opened a small workshop with about ten workers to make furniture such as tables, chairs and swings. A special product made in his workshop is bamboo straws.

There are ten steps to make a straw, the most complicated of which is to polish the bamboo stems twice before putting it into steamers to sterilise it.

Consumers used to complain that the bamboo stems can get mouldy. By learning from the Thái and Mường ethnic minority groups living around the area, Hà began adding salt to the steamer to help keep the products mould-free.

His workshop makes about 50,000 to 100,000 bamboo straws per month with profits of up to VNĐ50 million (US$2,100). The eco-friendly straws have spread so far that the Hón Mũ brand can be found at district and provincial fairs.

A few months ago, Hà surprised everyone with the decision to leave behind the bamboo workshop and farm to focus on taking care of the plants and his two small children.

The farm has been closed and the workshop’s operation has been taken over by Hà’s older brother.

“I hope that in the near future when my children grow up, the farm will be re-opened but I’ll limit the visitors to as few as I can,” he said.

But for Hà, it does not mean he will disappear. In the days before the Lunar New Year holiday, he was busy building bamboo houses for a vegetarian club in Hà Nội’s Sóc Sơn District.

Hà said he doesn’t do it for money, but because the customers are fellow nature lovers. VNS

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