Fungi growing helps explosion victims

Donations to a technical training project bring hope to affected families

Despite being hearing-impaired due to an ordnance explosion, 15-year-old Nguyen Van Cuong can help his mother take care of mushrooms and raise his family's income. —Photo Courtesy of Project Renew

Despite being hearing-impaired due to an ordnance explosion, 15-year-old Nguyen Van Cuong can help his mother take care of mushrooms and raise his family's income. —Photo Courtesy of Project Renew

by Hong Minh

QUANG TRI (VNS)— Bich Giang villager Nguyen Hinh is waiting for his first batch of wood-ear fungi, hoping that it will provide a stable income for his family.

Just a year ago, 55-year-old Hinh living in central Quang Tri Province’s Cam Hieu Commune could hardly imagine growing anything.

The man has just one hand. The other was blown off 10 years ago by a grenade that exploded when he picked it up.

Hinh expects to make a profit of VND3.5-4 million (US$170-190) by the end of May, the first income from his new business endevour.

Hinh lost his right hand when he tried to pick up a metal lump in his garden. It turned out to be the remains of a wartime M79 grenade.

The loss of his hand slowed down vegetable production – and family income as well.

His family lived in poverty until last year when Hinh was selected to take part in a fungi growing programme funded by international donors.

“I believe that by joining the programme, my family can escape from poverty very soon and earn enough money to take care of my four children,” Hinh said.

Unlike Hinh, Nguyen Thi Tam from the province’s Cam Lo District 15 years ago was a newly confined mom. The devil struck her as she was trying to keep her three-day-old son warm by burning charcoal. A sudden explosion of an arms shell hidden inside the coal occurred, leaving her baby permanently deaf, inflicting Tam with more burden in her life.

Tam joined the mushroom growing programme earlier than Hinh so she has had experience of growing different types of fungi, which provided her with new sustainable sources of income.

“Last year, I earned VND1.3 million ($60) for 84 kilos of wood-ears,” she said. “This year, I grow lingzhi and earn VND4-5 million ($200-250) for one batch.”

Tam’s son, Nguyen Van Cuong, can now help his mother take care of the mushrooms to raise income for the whole family despite being hearing-impaired.

Hinh and Tam are beneficiaries of Project Renew, which focused on unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance and support for victims. The project has been providing victims of UXO with technical training on how to grow different varieties of mushrooms since 2010.

“The project’s mushroom centre produced 15 tonnes of different varieties of mushroom, including lingzhi, shell, wood-ear and shiitake,” said Ta Nhan Ai, manager of Project Renew.

“Two tonnes of lingzhi have been put into 50,000 nylon bags and another 30,000 bags of wood-ears will be transported to UXO victims for growing purposes,” the manager revealed.

Last year, the centre upgraded its infrastructure by constructing an expanded mushroom growing house with the support of the Japanese government who donated $123,000 toward the project.

According to Ai, the new house will contribute to raise productivity by increasing the number of bags produced a day from 1,000 to up to 20,000.

Minister-Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy in Viet Nam Hideo Suzuki said that the funds are aimed at helping improve the lives of UXO victims in Quang Tri Province, the area that was the hardest hit by bombs in Viet Nam.

According to a recent survey, Quang Tri remains the province with the highest density of UXO left from the war.

“Up to 83 per cent of the province’s 475,000 hectares still contain UXO, which are still killing and injuring many local people every year,” said the provincial People’s Committee Chairman, Nguyen Duc Cuong.

A report from the province shows that there are more than 7,000 post-war UXO victims. More than 40 per cent of these victims are in need of support through vocational training to get means to raise their income while the other 60 per cent are in need of direct financial support.

Cuong said that despite efforts from the government and local authorities, the problems caused by UXO are still seriously affecting the local development.

“Every year, 10-15 per cent of the province’s financial investment goes into mitigating the effects of UXO but it still remains an overarching problem,” he said.

“We really need more support from international donors on this,” he stressed.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan on Sunday called on all domestic and international organisations and individuals to join hands in supporting UXO victims in an event held in Ha Noi.

Marking the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, which falls on April 4, he said:”Although the war ended more than 37 years ago, its consequences still pervade throughout the country.

“Over 20 per cent of the entire country has been contaminated with bombs and mines and over 100,000 people, mostly children and breadwinners, have been killed or injured so far.”

Of the 15 million tonnes of bombs and mines dropped in Viet Nam during the war, there are still 800,000 unexploded across the country, according to the Central Steering Committee of the National Action Programme on Settling Consequences of UXO.

With the current rate of UXO clearance, it is estimated to take 300 years to get rid of all the UXO in Viet Nam, the committee, also known as Steering Committee 504, revealed.

“Everyone needs to join hands in support for UXO victims, since the misery of the victims is the misery of everyone,” Nhan said. — VNS

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