Today was perhaps one of the most challenging days we’ve had. With only one more week in Viet Nam we are working as hard as we can to get out and talk to grassroots people. We organized a van and guide for the whole day, again with the help of Mr Tu. In our discussions we made clear that we wanted to meet farmers away from the coast, people growing a mixture of forest trees, fruit trees, rice and other crops. Our guide didn’t grasp this initially so we started heading in the wrong direction. I sensed this and had to work hard to make clear what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. By mid-morning we were driving along the banks of the Perfume River, which runs through Hue, towards the hills on the outskirts of the city. Aside from having to work hard with our guide we were also very challenged by temperatures hitting nearly 40°C and very high humidity.
We managed to meet and talk to two groups of people. The first group was a family, whose land is alongside the main north-south highway. We spoke with Mr Nguyen Chap, his wife Mrs Nguyen Thi Cam, and their son Mr Nguyen Xuan Thoi. They have 6 children, with the one son (aged 23) living and working with them. This family has about 2 ha of land and grows a mixture of citrus trees and a small area of rice.
The second group was a small community, who were helping with house extensions for a community member. We interviewed Mr Pham Dung and his sister Mrs Nguyen Thi Quyet. Brother and sister both grow citrus, corn, peanuts and rice crops. The community also works together to plant forest on the slopes behind their houses, with support from the government.
When we started out in Viet Nam I was told that the majority of Vietnamese farmers are poorly educated and ignorant of what is happening around them and in the world. This is an unfortunate perception held by too many people around the world who have little contact with farmers. Without much support in Viet Nam we have begun to focus more strongly on doing things ourselves, working with a guide to find people to talk to. Even our guide here initially had the view that it would be hard to find good thinking farmers, despite coming from a farming family. I think he has changed his point of view over the last couple of days.
The people we spoke to today, along with Mr Khoai yesterday, are experiencing hotter temperatures and more erratic weather. They read the paper and listen to the radio and know that what they are experiencing locally is connected to what is happening globally. They understand the problem to be the result of deforestation and industrial development and release of greenhouse gases. These people may not be well educated but they are far from ignorant. We are consistently hearing these people talk about the need to be planting trees and protecting our water resources. They are doing the best that they can in their local environments.