26/02/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Greenness on an area of white sand

I still remember the day my colleagues and I had a mission in Trieu Phong District of Quang Tri Province (Central Vietnam), 600 km south of Hanoi Capital. After working and on the way back to our hotel, we had to pass a sandbank which had been heated by the sun. It was like walking in a hot frying pan while the wind blew the sand everywhere. Twenty years later, we revisited this place and could not recognise it.nbsp;

photo Trong Chinh
Man-made ponds on the sandy bed for shrimp rearing.

photo Trong Chinh
Foliage is poping up on the once barren land of Tuong Van.

photo Van Chuc
On the way home from school.nbsp;nbsp;

photo Van Chuc
Nguyen Van Loi introducing to the visitors his tortoise-rearing pond.nbsp;

photo Trong Chinh
Born in the sandy land.

photo Trong Chinh
After the season with sand wind, the locals have to dredge the sand out of their garden.nbsp;

photo Hoang Chuong
Sweet fruits of the first crop.

photo Trong Chinh
Le Cong Hoi, from Linh An eco-village, still has a hard life, but his three children are university graduates.

I still remember the day my colleagues and I had a mission in Trieu Phong District of Quang Tri Province (Central Vietnam), 600 km south of Hanoi Capital. After working and on the way back to our hotel, we had to pass a sandbank which had been heated by the sun. It was like walking in a hot frying pan while the wind blew the sand everywhere. Twenty years later, we revisited this place and could not recognise it.nbsp;

Provincial Road 64, which used to wind its way among the sea of sand in the past, is now shaded under the trees. The roads linking the villages and communes are not bare like before but run through the gardens of verdant fruit trees. The sandy land of Trieu Phong has been revived with the greenness of trees prevailing everywhere, giving a feeling of freshness and peacefulness.

Following the suggestion of Bui Quang Sinh, Chairman of Quang Tri Farmers' Association, we visited the house of Nguyen Van Loi and his wife, Nguyen Thi Chung, near Road 64 in Vinh Hoa Village, Trieu Van Commune, who had overcome many difficulties to prosper in this area.

nbsp;With a simple and honest voice of a person living in a coastal area, he told us that during the war and even in the 1980's, the enemy's bombs as well as sunshine and rains had turned his native place into a poor and miserable area. The villagers wanted to move to other places to earn their living and avoid the plight caused by sunshine, wind and sand. But for him, he could not leave his beloved native home. He thought that wherever he went he would struggle to survive with his own hands. When the State advocated turning his area into an ecological village he and his wife responded immediately. Although living in a shelter made from four corrugated iron sheets he still nurtured a big ambition to become well off. At the initial period he zoned off an area and borrowed money to grow groundnuts and potatoes. Then he grew thousands of seedlings. The life of his family gradually improved and he even accumulated a small sum of money. As his savings increased, Loi shifted to cultivating and raisingnbsp; crops and animals of high value. Later he started to provide services and raise tortoises for export. From empty hands, he became a small master in the area and had an annual income of nearly VND 150 million, a no small sum for a Trieu Van villager.

Not far from Loi's house is the home of Nguyen Van Minh who is considered a symbol of the diligence and assiduousness of Quang Tri people. Minh said that the area had severe natural conditions. The villagers used to wear a raincoat, even in sunny days to avoid the impact of the sand and wind. They could not dry fish, shrimp, sweet potatoes or cassavas because of the sand. Their lifestyle was closely linked with the sand, from birth to death. Only when the ecological village was established he had a new life and knew that people in other places could live with the sand. Minh, his wife and children persistently followed an economic model of gardening-fishpond-animal husbandry under the guidance of the agricultural extension cadres. He built a pond in his garden to raise fish and irrigate the trees. His family's efforts have paid off. Now his garden is full of fruit trees and crops, such as mango, longan and gourd, with the same output as in a fertile plain area, which earns him millions of Vietnam dong. He said that the people's life in this area is also much more comfortable than before. Each year he earns nearly VND 30 million from farming. What makes him feel most satisfied is the fact that he has a stable life on a sandy area and all of his children are well off. nbsp;

Now the villagers feel secure in co-existing with the sand. Apart from farming and animal husbandry, they also undertake aqua-culture. They contribute money to build ponds and lakes for shrimp raising, which yields 2-3 tonnes of shrimp per ha each crop and brings in an income of VND 100-150 million.

To utilise 3,364 ha of fallow sandy land in the whole district, Trieu Phong District authorities have no choice but continue to encourage the people to build new ecological villages. Along the sides of Provincial Road 64 are emerging several ecological villages with roads, concrete houses, trees and plants and electricity and irrigation systems, all giving a new image to the poor rural areas.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Story: Hoang Chuong

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