VietNamNet Bridge – Craft villages – the door out of poverty for rural workers – are dying or their names are only in the memory.
The country has over 3,500 craft villages. The craft villages of hundreds of years old such as Phu Vinh (Hanoi), Phuoc Kieu and Ma Chau (Quang Nam Province), My Hoa (An Giang), Lu Cam (Khanh Hoa), Phuong Duc (Thua Thien – Hue)… are distressed. Production has come to a standstill. Villagers have changed their job or left the village.
The village of billionaires goes bankrupt
The textile mill of Mr. Nguyen Ky in the silk weaving village of Ma
Chau (Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province) is operating moderately.
In the silk weaving village of Ma Chau in Nam Phuoc town, Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province today, most of the enterprises have stopped operations for a long time. The looms are now covered by spider threads.
According to Mr. Nguyen Ky, a local official, in 1980, the village had more than 7,000 wooden looms but now only 500 are remained.
Ky and his wife worked uninterrupted in eight hours per day but they can earn only VND70,000 ($3.5) of profit, just enough to buy food for their dinner.
“People in Ma Chau earn their living from weaving. We do not have land for agricultural production so if we abandon this traditional job, we should be starved,” Ky lamented.
After going insolvent because of investing in a textile mill, Mr. Tran Tuc tried his best to get keep his house.
In 2000, Tuc borrowed more than VND1 billion ($50,000) from a bank to open a large textile mill. In the 2008-2011 period, the enterprise began facing difficulties because of high interest rates, from 15 to 18 percent a year. The revenue was insufficient to pay interest so in 2012 he decided to sell the plant to pay debts.
After selling the enterprise, he paid the debts and opened an Internet café. At present, Tuc still owes the bank VND500 million ($25,000).
Not only Tuc, some people who opened large weaving factories in Ma Chau are falling into bankruptcy and have to sell their houses. The most tragic case is the TD Company. The firm owner sold all properties in Duy Xuyen district to move to HCM City, he still owes banks nearly VND5 billion ($250,000).
Cho Thu carpentry village in Long Dien A commune, Cho Moi district, An Giang province, is famous nationwide for its exquisitely carved wood products. Due to unstable rice prices, farmers do not have money to purchase furniture so this craft village is increasingly gloomy.
Mr. Nguyen Van Thuong, 70, said: “In the past our village enjoyed business prosperity but recently some enterprises had to close because of insolvency.”
Mr. Bui Van Vui, who has been a carpenter in Cho Thu village for more than 20 years, said: “My enterprise is trying to maintain, not to develop. At this moment, the enterprises that borrow loans to do business are very easy to go bankrupt,” he said.
Take each day as it comes
An Giang has entered the flood season. This is the peak season for people in the hook making village of My Hoa in Long Xuyen city. Being formed 70 years ago, in its flourishing period, this village had more than 200 households, with 600 workers making hooks. The village’s products were popular in the Mekong Delta and exported to Cambodia.
In previous years, at this moment, Mr. Tran Thanh Thien’s enterprise prepared at least 2 tons of all kinds of hooks. But this year, the enterprise cannot sell out only a few hundred kilograms.
“Hooks are now unsalable. The village is quiet because a majority of young men have left home to work as bricklayers,” Thien said.
Mr. Vo Van Som, a hook maker, said the sales has decreased by 30 percent. The price of everything is rising but the daily wage for hook makers is still VND40,000-VND50,000 ($2-2.5).
“The income is lower than other jobs, but if we quit, we do not know what to do to earn our living. Now flooding comes late in the Mekong Delta and the fish resources are also reducing so the fishing will eventually fade. That’s why hooks are unmarketable,” he added.
Going along National Highway 1A in Dien Phuong commune, Dien Ban District, Quang Nam province, the shops selling bronze items produced by the famous brand of Phuoc Kieu are absence of buyers.
The 1980-1987 period was the most flourishing period in Phuoc Kieu bronze casting village. Orders from Quang Nam, Thua Thien – Hue and the Central Highlands poured relentlessly to the village. The village was very rich at that time.
Today, traditional factories have almost closed. To hang on to the job, many households have narrowed production and only work on orders.
Mr. Duong Ngoc Long, 46, the youngest son of Mr. Duong Nhi, 88, a famous artisan in Phuoc Kieu village, said: “In the 1980s, each day we earned profit of hundreds of thousands. Now only my family maintains this job.” Long worried that without solutions, this traditional village will die.
Ragged tile and ceramic villages
Lu Cam Hamlet, Ngoc Hiep Ward, Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province, was once famous for ceramic products. Currently, the traditional ceramic village with more than 200 years of tradition has only five households producing pottery, mainly Kitchen God cookers. Every month, each household produces from 1,000 to 1,500 cookers, pricing VND10,000-VND15,000/cooker. On average, each worker earns VND2.5 million ($120) per month.
Mr. Le Van Chuong, a senior worker, said: “Four generations of my family have pursued this job, but perhaps it will be over in my generation. Land and charcoal are increasingly depleting while gas and electric stove are more popular. This traditional cooker village is about to die.”
In Vinh Long province, there are over 1,200 villages making tiles and ceramic products, creating jobs for nearly 20,000 rural laborers. Now, going along the Co Chien River, one will no longer see smoke form kilns but only devastated scenes.