HIGHLAND YOUNGSTERS’ LIVES CHANGED FOR BETTER THANKS TO MEDICINAL PLANTS
Thanks to restoring the cultivation of medicinal plants, hundreds of rural youngsters in Sapa and Bac Ha districts (Lao Cai province) have had stable jobs with monthly income from 5-7 million VND.
Just at 6 am, along the roads through the villages Phinh Pao or Ta Ta Le (belonging to Sapa or Bac Ha District of Lao Cai Province) and over some low hills, we started to reach a wood with quite a lot of Ampelopsis. Due to high density of Ampelopsis, there is one plant out of every ten meters which can be harvested. Some Dao women began to take their tools out and collected Ampelopsis. With special tools, their cutting was so fast that they picked up one handful of leaves after only a few seconds. The young, green or slightly purple red shoots of Ampelopsis will make the most delicious tea with the highest Dihydro Myricetin. After picking up from one plant, they bound the leaves into bundles and tucked into the high branches, then collected in a bag for transportation.
On the roads leading to the villages Ki Quang San and Seo Po Ho, groups of young people called for each other to go to the field. Tan Ta May from Ki San Quan Village said: “We are going to take care of artichoke. Cultivating this kind of plant provides us income from 3 to 5 times higher than rice so everyone in our village grows it.”
Images of forests and fields full of green herbs have been creating Sapa and Bac Ha a new beauty of high mountains. Moreover, it is bringing a stable life and a new future for hundreds of young people here.
Mr. Le Tan Phong, Vice President of Sa Pa District, said “Sapa used to be a famous cultivation area of medicinal plants. In the 80s of the last century, Sapa was the providing source of seeds for some cultivation areas to export raw materials to Eastern European countries. However, by the early 90s, due to some political incidents in this market, there was a recession in the medicinal seedlings production sector in Sapa”. Therefore, the employment of the youth here was also affected. Many youngsters rushed to the woods to find orchids and forest medicinal plants to sell to tourists. Nevertheless, their income was very uncertain.
While herbal resources are in danger of exhaustion and many species are at risk of extinction due to increasing demand and continuous exploitation without attention to regeneration and conservation of the resources, the uncontrolled imported pharmaceuticals have been making people lose confidence in the safety of products. Mr. Do Tien Si, Director of Traphaco Sapa Company recalled: “In 2011, when the company started the pilot of growing medicinal plants here, the hardest work was to approach the young people and persuade them to trust us. At that time, the fastest way to see the youngsters was finding them in the tavern, leading them out and making them sober. We had to find and meet them many times, and cooperated with the Youth Union and People’s Committee to lobby, provide technical guidance to grow medicinal plants at their home, signed commitments and advanced costs. Gradually, people here have been developing confidence in the new model and cooperating with the Company”.
Chatting with Thao A Cang, the young man cheerfully said: “Planting artichoke is more leisure than growing rice. It requires less attention but provides more income from 3 to 4 times. From the last artichoke season, I earned enough to buy a new motorcycle”.
Up to now, with artichokes alone, 202 households in Sapa has collected nearly 2,800 tons of harvested products as fresh leaves each year and sold directly to Traphaco Sapa with value of more than 6 billion dongs. The average revenue per ha of artichokes is over 200 million dongs. Beside artichokes, last year, the Company bought 74.5 tons of Ampelopsis and more than 3 tons of ashweed from people of the district, in which the ashweed revenue was 67 million dongs per ha. “A young man here has average income from 5-7 million dongs per month thanks to growing medicinal plants. More than that, we are glad that they have jobs locally while preserving the traditional career of the region”, said Phong.