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Ethnic community gives farming a face-lift



By Công Thành 

An ethnic woman collects coffee beans during harvest time at a farm of Dano Farm co-op in Quảng Sơn Commune of Đắk Nông Province. The multi-ethnic community began ‘green’ farming for high-value crops. Photo courtesy of Dano Farm

Around 30km from the road of Gia Nghĩa township in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Nông Province, a community of 41 ethnic groups in Quảng Sơn Commune has been building high-valued farms with exportable crops at Dano Farm – the first ‘green’ agro-forestry co-operative of a multi-ethnic community.

The ethnic community had grown 117ha of coffee and 42ha of mulberry for silkworm raising. About 37 households joined organic farming practices in 2018.

Dano Farm co-op is a trailblazer in building an organic brand – Rock Way coffee – that attained the UTZ certification programme (UTZ certification signifies ‘good coffee’ and was launched in 2002 by a Guatemalan coffee farmer and a Dutch roaster who wanted to bring coffee certification to a global market and spread the impact of sustainable farming practices worldwide) in Đắk Glong District.

Coffee beans are processed at a factory at Dano Farm. The organic coffee brand attained exportable quality after years of applying standard production. Photo courtesy of Dano Farm

Local farmers were guided to ferment fruit, fish and silkworm waste for fertilising coffee trees reducing 60 per cent of input cost instead of chemical fertiliser.

“The brand highlights the co-existence of different ethnic groups such as the Mông, M’Nông, Dao, Thái, that were mostly emigrants from the northern mountainous region for decades,” said the director of Dano Farm, Tạ Thị Liên.

“They had ‘zero’ experience and knowledge in the standard process of organic farming while hesitating to start sustainable production. We persuaded them to practise organic production, creating high-quality, safe farm produce for a healthy community.

“The first pilot organic certified coffee was priced 25 per cent higher than previously. Farmers saved 60 per cent of production cost by using bio-fertilisers made from fermented fruits, fish and silkworm waste.”

Liên said organic farming needed time to perfect, so safe coffee output accounted for 1.6 per cent of total production at Dano Farm.


Members of Dano Farm feed silkworms with mulberry leaves. Silk, coffee, medicinal herbs and community-based tourism will set up sustainable growth for ethnic groups in Quảng Sơn Commune. Photo courtesy of Tạ Thị Liên

Ethnic groups in Quảng Sơn Commune still preserve their traditional weaving, culture, arts, cuisine and fashion, but the unique culture is only shown at the annual festivals of the Mông, M’Nông, Dao and Thái people.

“Sericulture will help ethnic groups promote weaving craft to make valuable fabrics, while more crops can be used during other times. Farmers can earn more from raising silkworms after harvesting the coffee, pepper, macadamia, avocado and livestock,” Liên explained.

She said 1 hectare of mulberry trees, whose leaves are used to feed silkworms, could provide food for producing 800kg of silk cocoons, and sell for VNĐ160 million (US$7,000).

“The co-operative has been seeking partnerships with other local farmers for expanding the mulberry area in building a stable material source for silk production,” Liên said.

Silk and handloom fabrics will be a product of community-based tourism, traditional festivals, food fairs and crafts.

Ethnic women at Dano Farm gather in a farm produce promotion event in Đắk Nông Province. They are weavers of silk fabric and brocade fashion. Photo courtesy of Giàng A Lỳ 

H’Mai, 80, a M’Nông woman, said handloom weaving was an ancient craft among women in the community as almost all the local women could make their own clothing.

“We could show our daily work to tourists when visiting our community. They will get experience from weaving, cooking traditional foods, and jungle trekking. Each ethnic group will show off their culture in hosting visitors,” she said.

Giàng A Lỳ, an immigrant Mông from the northern province of Lai Châu and a member of the co-operative, said his own 3ha of land was for vegetable and livestock farming and to host a food festival.

Lỳ said a series of daily activities of local people could be shown to visitors, such as musical performance, handicraft and farming.

He said community-based tourism would help promote coffee, silk, farm produce, and handmade products of local people.

The Mông man said different ethnic groups assigned teams of cuisine, weaving, jungle trekking, and farm living.

Giàng Thị Dẻ, a Mông weaver, said farmers would benefit from a 40 per cent share of silk cocoon sales as the co-operative covered the cost of seeds, fertilisers and technical assistance.

She said a female worker could process 140kg of cocoons, and have an income of VNĐ8 million ($347) per month.

Dẻ said local farmers could earn more from livestock, macadamia, pepper and garden medicinal herbs.

The local weavers had been building links with famous silk brand villages in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang and Vạn Phúc silk village [in Hà Nội] to produce pillow covers, bags and fashionable outfits.

“We plan to build an environment-protecting ecological system, in which the exportable coffee certified brand will play a key role,” Liên said.

“The ecology-based farming will help boost the value of different crops while offering protection for each other. Farmers earn more in the same area and avoid the risk of dumping produce in bumper harvests.”

A M’Nông ethnic craftswoman works on a handloom in Quảng Sơn Commune in Đắk Glong District of Đắk Nông Province. Photo courtesy of Dano Farm.

“However, our main target focuses on how farmers themselves invoke the ‘green and safe’ agro-forestry production that helps them use better farming methods, grow better crops, generate more income, improve working conditions, adapt to climate change, and protect the environment,” she said.

“They (ethnic farmers) will be masters of high-value farming and build prosperity from generation to generation in the Central Highlands. They will become rich from their safe and green crops.” — VNS


Your Vietnam

HCM City, Korean province begin culture-tourism festival



The opening ceremony of the HCM City- Gyeongsangbuk-do Culture and Tourism Festival on Monday. The three-day event features a range of cultural, cuisine, tourism, and music programmes and hopes to promote cultural and tourism co-operation between the city and the province. VNA/VNS Photo

HCM CITY — HCM City and the Republic of Korea (RoK)’s Gyeongsangbuk-do Province are organising a festival featuring a range of cultural, cuisine, tourism, and music programmes.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the HCM City-Gyeongsangbuk-do Culture and Tourism Festival on Monday, Dương Anh Đức, deputy chairman of the city People’s Committee, said the event would help bolster the image of the province, promote cultural and tourism relations between the two sides and further intensify the comprehensive strategic partnership between Việt Nam and the RoK.

It would shine a light on Korean culture, food and arts for locals, he said.

The HCM City- Gyeongsangbuk-do World Culture Expo that ran in the city for nearly three months in 2017 attracted more than three million visitors, he said.

Lee Cheol Woo, governor of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, said Việt Nam-Korea relations have seen great progress, and hoped the festival would expand cultural exchanges between the two localities and popularise Korean culture in the city.

Việt Nam is the third biggest trade partner for the RoK and more than 9,000 Korean firms have a presence in Việt Nam.

The event being held at the September 23 Park in the downtown area will run until November 29. —VNS


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Your Vietnam

Vietnam’s special laparoscopic surgery technique draws foreign patient



Editor’s note: In late November, an Australian patient sought laparoscopic surgery in Vietnam for a common bile duct cyst. 

The procedure was conducted by Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi, who is among the few doctors specializing in single-hole laparoscopic surgery for choledochal cysts in pediatric patients in Vietnam.

Since 2011, Son has been a trailblazer as the first to perform single-hole laparoscopic surgery for common bile duct cysts in the country. 

Over the years, he has successfully conducted over 300 surgeries using this technique, significantly alleviating pain and facilitating faster recovery for pediatric patients compared to conventional surgical methods.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters recently interviewed Son to learn more about the technique.

Could you provide insights into the recent common bile duct cyst surgery conducted at the hospital for a foreign pediatric patient?

In late November, the family of an Australian patient revealed that their child had been unwell since October while residing in Indonesia. 

There, they were informed by a doctor that open surgery could be conducted to remove their daughter’s common bile duct cyst.

Seeking alternative treatments, they discovered the single-hole laparoscopic surgery method for choledochal cysts. 

Fortunately, a doctor in Bali, Indonesia, who had attended an international scientific conference, was familiar with this technique and provided the family with my contact information. 

While initially exploring other options in hospitals in Australia and France, after more than a month, they decided to come to Vietnam for treatment.

The patient underwent a successful surgery using the single-hole laparoscopic method, with only a small scar left next to the navel, ensuring the baby’s esthetic appearance. Remarkably, just three days after the operation, the patient was already playing and showed rapid recovery.

How does this surgical technique offer advantages compared to other methods?

Traditionally, open surgery techniques were prevalent for common bile duct cysts, and many countries still employ this method. 

However, in nations like Japan, the United States, Thailand, and Indonesia, single-hole laparoscopic surgery has become a standard for treating inguinal hernias in children.

In Vietnam, laparoscopic surgery is utilized to minimize trauma and ensure esthetic outcomes. 

Although conventional laparoscopic surgery reduces trauma compared to open procedures, it typically involves making four incisions to place access ports for endoscopic instruments, potentially leaving three to four scars on the abdominal wall. 

In contrast, the single-hole laparoscopic technique involves only one incision through the navel, with surgical instruments inserted and manipulated through this single small incision.

This method offers distinct esthetic advantages, as the patient will have no visible surgical scars since the navel serves as a natural scar that conceals the incision. 

Additionally, recovery time is faster and the success rate of such surgeries is notably high.

Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre

Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre

When did you first adopt this surgical technique? And why do you opt for a seemingly more challenging method compared to other techniques?

I first encountered the single-hole laparoscopic surgery technique through the navel announced by a doctor at an international scientific conference in Beijing, China in 2011. 

Recognizing its numerous advantages, I believed it could be successfully implemented in Vietnam.

One notable feature of this technique is its compatibility with standard laparoscopic surgical instruments, eliminating the need for specialized tools.

Upon learning about it in 2011, I introduced this technique to pediatric patients. 

Initially, the surgery duration was extended compared to conventional techniques, which typically take three to four hours for choledochal cyst surgery. 

In my initial single-hole laparoscopic surgeries, the duration was five to six hours. 

However, after approximately 10 surgeries, the duration gradually reduced, eventually matching that of other conventional techniques.

Despite its initial complexity, the technique offers various advantages, particularly in ensuring esthetics for patients, minimizing pain and facilitating faster recovery. 

Motivated by the desire to provide the most effective treatment, I expanded the application of this technique to various surgeries, including inguinal hernia surgery, ovarian cystectomy, appendectomy, lymphatic cyst procedures, and other digestive defects.

Considering the higher incidence of congenital choledochal cysts in Vietnam and some other Southeast Asian countries compared to the global average, the application of this technique holds the potential to benefit a larger number of pediatric patients in the region.

Can this technique be transferred to lower-level hospitals, enhancing their capacity to treat patients?

This technique demands advanced technology and intricate surgical skills. 

Unlike the conventional practice of making four incisions for laparoscopic instruments, this technique involves only one hole, making it more challenging. 

The surgeon must possess advanced technical expertise to execute this method successfully.

An advantage of this approach is that it does not necessitate specialized laparoscopic surgical instruments or utilize other surgical tools.

Consequently, with a genuine commitment to study and enhance surgical techniques, doctors can feasibly explore and refine their proficiency in performing these surgeries.

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Your Vietnam

Love can form a cultural bridge



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

The wedding season has started, and over the past few days a wedding in Can Lộc District, Hà Tĩnh Province, of a mixed couple caught the attention of millions of viewers online.

In the clip posted by the bride, TikToker Seung Thảo, you can see a Korean mother in her 50s wearing a Vietnamese áo dài dancing with her two children and her in-laws.

The Korean mother-in-law reportedly said that in South Korea weddings today last for about two hours, but here in her in-laws’ village, her son’s wedding lasted for two days and two nights. Everyone was overjoyed, friendly and excited.

Mixed marriages have become very common in today’s globalised world. Once in a while, you read about Vietnamese women trapped in marriage with Chinese or Korean men, living in a remote place where there is nothing relevant to their Vietnamese identity such as food, community or culture.

Sometimes they are badly treated by their husbands or in-laws. Every year, women kidnapped into marriages in China escape their miseries to tread jungles and long roads to find a way back home in Việt Nam.

When bad news happens, you would hear about it more often. But this wedding received the many blessings of everyone who got to see it. The couple met at work in Việt Nam and chose to wear the Vietnamese áo dài to be closer to her Vietnamese in-laws.

Thảo, the bride, posted on her social media and said she was glad her mother-in-law wasn’t trying to hold back her feelings and got along well with her parents.

Ancient prejudices about conflicts between mother and daughter-in-law are less prevalent in modern weddings, where mothers can be younger, independent and ready to help out when they can.

Thảo said her mother-in-law always wanted to visit Việt Nam because she knew the beautiful scenery and friendly people. She is also fond of some classic Vietnamese foods, such as roasted pork and pickled mustard greens.

Today, Korean food culture has also taken root in Việt Nam, where you can find kimchi in a neighbourhood wet market. They are just as popular as the pickled mustard greens, cabbages, or aubergine that are so loved by the Vietnamese.

For the wedding, she tried several áo dài, which she thought were very graceful.

“People think the mother-in-law will always care for her son, and want her daughter-in-law to do so,” Thảo said. “But my mother-in-law is different. She wants her son to share difficulties with me and usually sides with me if we had a fight, which made me feel very lucky.”

Thảo said that her father-in-law couldn’t come to their wedding in Hà Tĩnh due to health issues, but he already said he’d make up for it at their wedding in South Korea in 2024. 

A Vietnamese saying goes, “Có con mà gả chồng gần, có bát canh cần nó cũng mang cho,” literally translated as “When you have a daughter, marry her to someone living nearby as when she cooks a vegetable soup, she would bring you a bowl!”

Thirty or twenty years ago, during the opening up of the country, mixed marriages were usually between international men who came to Việt Nam as businessmen or travellers, and the women followed them abroad. Today, more young Vietnamese women get to travel the world, meet their men, and then bring them home to get married. 

Well, Thảo’s parents may not just want a bowl of soup from her every day, but be happy to see their child happy and making a home in a distant land. But the couple can always visit or even move to work in Việt Nam for a few years as more South Korean companies have established factories here close to their home. 

Thảo said after she finishes her studies in South Korea, the couple would like to start their careers in Việt Nam, where her mother-in-law can always visit and have a good time whenever she likes.  VNS


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