By Công Thành
Born in Điện Bàn Town, Quảng Nam Province, 37-year-old Dương Hiển Tú has developed the area's first organic ecological agriculture system and a sustainable farming model over the past seven years to create the An Phú organic farm brand.
A farmer checks his crops in central Việt Nam. Organic farming takes more time than using chemical fertilisers and pesticides. VNS Photo Công Thành
As one of the first farming families in Gò Nổi, an agriculture-intensive area in the province, they began their adventure in organic farming on 2ha of land as part of a business-farmer co-operative model in 2012.
Farmers who made a living from traditional agricultural production for years were assigned to follow organic farming under strict regulations and responsibility-related contracts as well as market price guarantees.
Freshly cut organic vegetables at An Phú Farm in Quảng Nam. Organic farming is seen as a positive step for sustainable farming development. VNS Photo Hữu Tú
“It was a real change among traditional farmers in the region. They were told to use their skills and set prices themselves,” Tú said.
“Each family was put in charge of a segment in the production chain, including livestock, rice, vegetables and fish. Livestock farms now supply meat and bio-fertilisers for vegetables, while garden waste from herb farms is used to feed livestock,” he explained.
He said this helped farmers to reduce production costs by 35 to 40 per cent for chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
According to Đỗ Hữu Vinh, 69, a member of An Phú Farm, organic farming is a tough process because it takes more time.
A farmer harvests vegetables at a farm outside Đà Nẵng. Safe and healthy products from organic farms are a favourite among housewives. VNS Photo Công Thành
“Most farmers prefer to chill out after spraying chemical fertilisers and weedkillers. They leave their farms for days to enjoy weddings, parties and festivals, but organic farming needs daily care,” Vinh said.
“We switched to organic farming two years ago, and it's fresh and healthy. We stopped using toxic chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Now it's all about hard work and herb-based pesticides to clear harmful insects,” he explained.
Nguyễn Viết Bình, a farmer in Điện Phong Commune, said organic farming would be the sustainable choice for the future.
“Organic farming can be expensive due to labour costs, but we can work healthier on chemical-free fields. We can earn more on a small farm as organic products often sell for twice as much as chemical-based farms,” Bình said.
“Farmers ensure quality control and organic farming, while businesses ensure a stable price for safe farm produce. It helps reduce the risks from market fluctuations,” Bình added.
Hoàng Hùng, a biology engineer, believed that organic farming would continue to grow as people became more aware of where their food was coming from.
“Housewives look at quality rather than price. They want to know where the food they're feeding their children is from, and even visit the farms. This has pushed farmers to switch to organic methods,” Hùng said.
The 23-year-old engineer, who works on a 5,000sq.m farm outside Đà Nẵng, recycles garden and livestock waste to produce bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticides.
“Garden waste is fermented to produce bio-insect spray, while bees and ants help protect the farm from insect infestation. Earthworms are also to decompose organic waste,” he said.
The organic farm collective helps businesses reduce their initial investments by 20 per cent.
“Farmers offer land, seeds, skills, labourers and knowledge of agricultural production, while businesses ensure supply chain development, sales, technical assistance and quality certification,” Hùng said.
Võ Lâm Vũ, the owner of an organic farm in Măng Đen in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, said building links among organic farms nationwide would help set a firm foundation for an organic growth wave.
A farmer plants vegetables in the central province of Quảng Nam. The province has promoted organic farming among local and foreign investors, as well as hi-tech farming. VNS Photo Hoàng Hùn
“It’s necessary. One organic farm by itself can't meet market demands, while shops need diversity for their products, ranging from vegetables, fruit, rice and seafood,” Vũ said.
“Our farm, which turned to organic farming seven years ago, supplies on average 1.5 tonnes of safe farm produce – mainly roots and fruit – to Đà Nẵng alone,” he said.
“Each farm specialises in key products, while others supply aquaculture, rice, or packaged coffee and tea,” he said.
He explained that organic farms would reduce the risks of market changes, while maintaining a stable income for farmers.
Đỗ Thị Tường Vy, manager of the An Phú Farm shop chain, said farmers held a 40 per cent share in the organic production chain.
“Each farming family can earn from VNĐ12-14 million a month from organic farm produce. Poor families can also add to their coffers from making traditional cakes, pork and beef pies using materials from organic livestock and rice farms,” Vy shared.
She said a specialised livestock farm and processing plant had been built in Phú Ninh District to supply the central region market.
Vy said the farm had built links with three other organic farms in the region to promote produce diversity.
Thái Văn Quang, an agricultural expert, said organic farming was still seen as an emerging market as awareness of over-used chemicals and stimulants in cultivation was limited.
Quang said the city, in co-operation with Chikujo town and experts from Kyushu University and Saga University, Japan, had launched a pilot project to produce liquid fertiliser made from organic waste from farms and public gardens.
Tú said organic farming would be key for An Phú Farm for domestic and export markets in the near future.
An organic sunflower field in Quảng Nam Province. The site has helped boost the organic farm chain in central Việt Nam. VNS Photo Dương Tú
He said organic production was not only about making money; farmers had a social responsibility to deal with serious health problems partly related to over-used chemicals, toxic weedkillers and pesticides. VNS