Monday, March 27, 2006

Transition from opium to tea a success in Huoi Tu

Vietnam News

Nghe An — Having abandoned drug cultivation, the Mong ethnic community from Huoi Tu area in central Nghe An Province has prospered from growing tea in recent years.

Huoi Tu in Ky Son District, covered by fog throughout the year, is ideally suited for growing tea, and following a project has now nearly 200 hills covered by tea plantations, fetching an annual income of VND20-30 million for each Mong household engaged in cultivation.

According to local authorities, the region grows well-known export-quality tea, including Bao Loc tea from Lam Dong Province in Central Highlands and Giang tea from the northern Yen Bai Province, famous for their taste and colour.

But the transformation of Ky Son, famous in the past for growing opium in about 3,000ha in 16 communes of the district, was achieved after local authorities and international organisations launched a campaign to eliminate drugs from the region.

The US$7 million campaign, funded and implemented by the drug prevention centre under the United Nations and local authorities, succeeded in uprooting opium cultivation from the district.

To stop people, who lost a regular source of income, from taking up opium again, local authorities promoted Nguyen Manh Cuong, former chief of the Nghe An Volunteer Youth Association, as the chairman of the Ky Son District, with the mandate to oversee the project to promote tea cultivation.

Cultivating Taste

Taking up the challenge, Cuong established a group, Team 8, consisting of Mong ethnic minority youth and headed by Nguyen Trong Canh, chairman of the Nam Xuan Agriculture Co-operative of Nam Dan District.

The group started persuading people to take up tea cultivation with little success, as the ethnic minorities feared losing their land. The team changed their strategy and encouraged growing rice and vegetables along with tea, achieving better results.

"Initially, it was very difficult to persuade Mong people to take up tea cultivation as they feared losing their land. But eventually, we prevailed as the people saw the benefit growing from wet rice and later tea," Canh said.

Other than growing tea, the minorities started growing wet rice, which gave them a yield of 18 tonnes for 3ha. Around 25 households, initially, started growing wet rice and tea, according to Canh, followed by others.

With the project deemed a success, the team is now planning to encourage people to invest in animal husbandry and growing fodder. "These will further help prosperity of the region and the people," Canh said.


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