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Organic farm revives old style gardening

Apr 24. 2016
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DIEN BAN - Organic gardening is a traditional, healthy style of farming known to most Vietnamese people for centuries. However, the old style is fading, as farmers try to keep up with the rapid changes of habit of consumers to increase their profit.

As the number of cancer patients rises in hospitals and food is seen as a contributing factor, consumers and farmers think of the old, safe, environmentally friendly farming styles. Urban residents now prefer growing their own vegetables in plastic boxes on their balconies or roofs to provide themselves chemical-free vegetables.

A community garden in Dien Ban town in Quang Nam province has developed an organic-farm model to help raise awareness in its community about the importance of safe, healthy food and environmental protection.

Vu Thi My Hanh, 29, from Hanoi, and a group of volunteers work on a 600-square-metre garden in a small village in Dien Ban town. They are trying to revive an old style of farming linked to their Vietnamese ancestors.

Hanh, who manages the Green Youth Collective project, said the garden village on the Thu Bon River was an example of native-friendly gardening for young people and farmers who want a healthy future.

Hanh allocated a 600sqm farm to build a mock-up of a natural jungle garden that could be replicated.

“Farmers no longer practise as their ancestors did in gardens and paddies. They rush for profit and productivity, but don’t care about the environment or health of the community. Chemical ingredients in pesticides, weed killers and fertilisers are often over-used for maximum harvest in a short amount of time,” Hanh said.

“We are trying to build up a demonstration to introduce gentle gardening skills to improve the soil, underground water and love of working among young people and local farmers.”

The garden was grown on a jungle-based structure, in which soil is kept as a base while layers of “green fertiliser” provide nutrition for the plants.

Rubbish, leaves, rice straw, kitchen-ash and cow manure are processed for compost.

Hanh, who is known as Stoney Chenal on Facebook, said a good natural habitat was formed in the garden, with peaceful co-existence among insects, flowers and plants.

“Creepers can grow along with beans, as it keeps the [fragile] plant braced against wind during a storm, while bushes and herbs create a cool and moist cover for soil and roots, as well as earthworms,” she explained.

“Flowers are grown in the garden not only for colourful decoration, but because they lure bees, ants and beetles – which protect the plants from harmful insects.”

The project manager from Hanoi said the nature-based garden opened the door for young people who wish to have a green future

 and develop healthy life skills.

She said the garden helped educate people on sustainable practices that focus on building up the soil, cover-cropping, companion planting and working with local plants. There are also community workshops, and individual and group projects.

Hanh said seeds were collected every harvest and stored for the next crop.

Volunteer Nguyen Thi Ha, 22, a final-year student at Hue Science and Humanitarian College, said the organic farm lured her with its practical gardening tips and opportunities for studying for her environmental thesis.

Ha, from Dien An Commune of Quang Nam province, said the organic farming would help her experience more sustainable farming in her homeland.

Ha said she had not yet analysed the natural composition of the soil being used at organic farms in comparison with soil at pesticide- and chemical-using farms.

Vu Duc Sinh, deputy chairman of the Triem Tay village farming cooperative, said the Green Youth Collective project brought about big changes for local farmers.

“Chemical-free farming has been a favourite of local people in the village in recent years,” Sinh said. Buyers are becoming more aware of the dangers of food with chemicals in it.

“Our ancestors made fertiliser from green leaves and cattle dung. It’s about co-existence between people and nature.”

 Sinh added that he had been seeking financial support from the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to build the village into a clean, healthy farming area.



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