Recently, the Medical Committee Netherlands – Vietnam (MCNV) has provided supports for a number of households in Chenh Venh village (Huong Phung commune), Cu Bai village (Huong Lap commune) and Ta Puong village (Huong Viet commune) to produce made-from-bamboo products to supply for domestic and overseas markets.
This is one of the initiatives to encourage consumers to switch from using plastic to environment-friendly products, and at the same time, creating the opportunities for livelihood improvement for people of Van Kieu and Pa Co ethnic minorities in Quang Tri province.
The products being produced in these localities are as diverse as straws, pen case, travel utensils case, candle holders, with materials sourcing from local forests.
According to MCNV, 10 households in Chenh Venh village are making bamboo straws. In 2019, they produced around 50,000 straws, sold at the price of VND 1,000- 3,000/per unit, generating the revenue of VND 100 million (equal to VND 10 million/household).
Len Xanh is one of the various types of bamboo found in the mountainous district of Huong Hoa. Growing wildly on ravine, nearby high waterfalls, Len Xanh can only be harvested when it is mature enough. Normally, one tree can provide 5-8 stalks/year, each stalk comprises of 7 to 10 nodes, each node is from 20 to 25 cm long.
After being harvested, the stalks are cut to a length of 18-23 cm, before 5-6 hours of disinfection by boiling, and later wiping away residual impurities.
In the next 7 to 8 days, the straws are dried under the sun. The final step is shaping the straw by sanding down the edges.
According to Ms. Ho Thi Xang, member of a production group in Chenh Venh village, her family is expecting to increase their income by bamboo straw making.
They used to earn their living by working in the forests on their own or hired by others as seasonal workers. Despite their hard work, Xang and her husband still struggled to make end meets. Since their kids were born and needed round-the-clock care, Xang had to stay home. All of the livelihood burden was hence put on her husband’s shoulder, pushing the family deeper into poverty.
“Making bamboo straws requires high level of patience and meticulousness. In order to come up with qualified products that meet the standard of hygiene, size and appearance, you have to follow closely every step. Nevertheless, as long as you put enough efforts in the work, you’ll quickly get used to it and be able to earn stable income every month”, Xang said with excitement.
Bamboo straw making not only opens a new path of livelihood for local residents, but also benefits the community in another way as it takes the men away from alcoholic addiction. They are now busier with the work of harvesting the materials from the forests.
According to Mr. Ho Van Noi, a resident in Chenh Venh village, the men can make use of their time of working in the forest to harvest len xanh, and craft bamboo straws during their idle time. It is estimated that in each household two people are taking part in the production of bamboo straws. However, due to the scarcity of len xanh in the nature and the danger of the harvesting process, people are facing challenge in ensuring sufficient materials for production.
The community is therefore looking forward to receiving more supports from the authorities and functional agencies to expand the plantation of len xanh, in order to meet with production demand.
At the same time, MCNV is supporting 3 production groups in three villages to diversify their products and materials and build drying houses, and providing machinery and technical training for core members.
Their products now range from pen case, candle holders, travel utensil case. The making of these handicraft demands much dedication, however it pays off, as these products capture the attention of customers, especially overseas tourists.
At the moment, Hoi An Roastery, a company owning eleven cafes located in the tourism city of Hoi An, Quang Nam province is the distributor of these products. In the future MCNV will help the production groups to increase connection with domestic and international markets. Together with production, they are also paying attention to developing plantation zone of material, especially len xanh on nearby hills.
Currently, 20 households in Huong Phung, Huong Viet and Huong Lap village are taking part in bamboo handicraft work. This is a practical vocation to increase income while contribute to the development of environmentally-friendly production market.
Bamboo straws in the hands of daughter of a production group member in Chenh Venh hamlet, Huong Phung commune. Photo: Phan Tan Lam
“In the time to come, we will help expand the material plantation, diversify the products, improving crafting skills, product quality and widen the market network”, says an MCNV project coordinator.
With dedication and hard work, more and more bamboo are turned into delicate products, while the farmers are becoming skillful artisans, and getting closer to a bright future.