Today was an exciting day! We headed north out of the bustling, vibrant city of Ho Chi Minh and headed towards the Cu Chi region. We were all looking forward to seeing a more rural part of Vietnam. Our travels today took us to a rubber plantation, a hi-tech research park, a worm and cow farm (we'll explain that connection in a bit) and then finished off our day with a history lesson about the Vietnam war while exploring the Cu Chi tunnels.
Our first stop was a 400 ha rubber plantation. Rubber 'milk' is harvested 6 months of the year and approximately 100 people work at this plantation. Currently the price for rubber is very low (50 cents/L) and so many farms are being converted to organic vegetable farms. In Vietnam, all land is leased from the government, typically on 20-year leases.
Next, we made a quick stop at the hi-tech agricultural park. The park consists of an 88 ha property with many greenhouses containing technology from Israel. One goal of the park is to train farmers how to produce food organically. The demand for organic food is also increasing in Vietnam.
After the park visit, we met a couple who run a vermiculture farm, a dairy farm and a shoe factory. The husband manages the shoe factory and the wife manages the farm enterprises. Two years ago, the couple found an innovative way to utilize the dairy manure for an additional source of income. Worms and dairy manure are combined to produce compost for the rubber tree plantations and for neighbouring organic farms. The worms are also harvested regularly for two main reasons. One, the worms are dehydrated and the reconstituted with water and used as a foliar product on the rubber trees to prevent disease. Two, the worms are used as a protein source/supplement for chickens, cows and fish.
The vermiculture farm was set up in between rows of rubber trees on approximately 2 ha. Interestingly, the couple rents the land on a 2-year contract from the renter of the rubber plantation. Next stop was the dairy farm which consisted of 20 dairy cows, milked twice a day at 5 am and 4 pm. Average milk production is about 200 L of milk per day at this farm.
The afternoon was spent learning more about the Vietnam war and the Cu Chi tunnels. This elaborate web of tunnels, amongst many other things, showcased the resilience and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese people. Despite the fact that many Vietnamese and Americans were once enemies, today these two countries have strong ties.
Tomorrow we head to Da Lat!