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  Poverty Alleviation

Farmer uses science to boost output

A farmer from the south has proven that cracking the books and pouring money into home-grown scientific research is a sure way of improving agricultural productivity.

Do Quy Hao, a 54-year-old farmer and self-taught botanist from Tien Giang Province’s Hon Dat District, has spent more than VND20 million (US$1,300) on instruments to study the properties of insects that were destroying his sweet potato and water melon fields."This has made my job as a farmer easier while increasing my income," he said.

Old-fashioned research

Before Hao began his explorations into botany, he and his family once thought fertiliser and water were the keys to successful harvests.

"However, I learned through experience that, like human beings, plants sometimes contract diseases and need treatment," Hao said. "I spare no efforts in devising the best treatment possible for my plants."

In the early 1990s, Hao’s water-melon fields were seriously destroyed by bacteria and insects. For five consecutive years, Hao watched the leaves and trunks of his young water-melon plants succumb to bacteria infestation.

"One year, I expected to make VND70 million from the water melons. Unfortunately, within just three days, one week before I harvested the crop, colestotrichum [a variety of poisonous fungi] ate up almost half my crops," Hao said.

In 1994, Hao brought a specimen of the fungi to Can Tho University, where a researcher named Nguyen Thi Nghiem analysed it and offered advice on how to best fight the pest. The experience piqued Hao’s interest so much that he bought books on agronomy from which to study.

In addition to making return visits to Can Tho University, he also made trips to the Agriculture and Forestry University of HCM City and the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute to further his studies.

"They treated me like a student because I was so passionate," said Hao. "They also visited my fields to help me with follow-up projects."

In 2000, Hao enrolled in a three-month in-service training course on agronomy at the Agriculture and Forestry University of HCM City.

Based on his research, Hao began using phosphate fertiliser on his fields, an uncommon practice in that part of the country. He said he is seeing results.

"Farmers in the region don’t tend to use the fertiliser. They’ve tried it in the past, but because they didn’t see prompt results, they discontinued its use," Hao said. "From reading a book by Vo Minh Kha of the Agriculture University of Ha Noi, I learned that the fertiliser is pretty suitable for alum soil. It provides micro-organisms that enrich the soil, but you must wait a few years to see results."

Hao has also co-ordinated with Professor Nguyen Cong Hao at HCM City’s branch of the National Centre for Natural Sciences and Technology to use Pheromone, a chemical substance that kills weevils in sweet potato fields.

"World agriculturists use Pheromone to absorb male weevils into traps that help sterilise female weevils," said Hao. "But I have combined biological and chemical methods to lure weevils out of their homes and kill them."

Hao said he has doubled his productivity, and he has passed his innovations on to other local farmers. He has also initiated a pilot plan for growing dien thanh, a bean plant that is four or five metres tall. He said one hectare of dien thanh could yield 100 tonnes of organic fertiliser in five months.

"I have learned a lot and am strongly convinced that I could triple my output," Hao said.

"Farmers need to study science to improve their production."

A son of the soil

Hao, who was born in the Thai Binh Province, began dabbling in botany in 1981, when he convinced his parents to move to the My Hiep Son Commune because a study he conducted showed that the land there was especially fertile.

Unfortunately, the low-lying and alum-permeated soil, coupled with their inexperience, ensured failure early on.

They decided to stay put, though, and worked as contract labourers for other households.

Gradually, Hao’s family escaped poverty and began acquiring land of their own. After years of hard work, Hao has accumulated 13ha of land on which he rotates rice, sweet potato and water melon. The crops fetch him an average profit of VND500 million ($32,000) each year.

Vietnam People - (23/07/2004)

Special website for Vietnamese farmer

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