As usual, after a hard and passionate working day in the garden, Mr. Phuoc returns to his small and simple wooden house, slowly enjoying some local drinks for refreshment and happily smiling. But for him, today 28 March 2017 is a special day. From the very early morning, he makes a lot of phone calls. He feels so excited, because today he is receiving a big group of guests. They are village elders and young farmers coming from Mang Den Pass, where he had devoted part of his life to national independence during the American war. The guests include Prof. Dr. Friedhelm Göltenboth from University of Hohenheim, Germany and Dr. John Quayle from Queensland, Australia, who always travel around the world to learn from farmers just like Mr. Phuoc.
“Today is a very beautiful day. The sun is finally shining again after a long rain. But where are they now? All people from Lam Trach Gardener’s Club are gathering in my garden waiting for the guests” – he excitedly talked on the phone.
Mr. Phuoc has been expecting the meeting with these foreign professors for more than two years. They both took long flights to Quang Binh just to meet up with him – the man that had inspired them very much by his stunning story “ from mortality to fullness”, “from bombs to sustainability”, and his compassionate heart and extraordinary energy. Despite the danger, Mr. Phuoc has for 20 years blown the breath of life into the soul of the innocent soil saturated with cluster bombs during the wartime to transform it into the currently most unique ever kingdom of ecological pepper plants in Quang Binh province and Vietnam as a whole. The revival of his bombed land demonstrates all the ups and downs of the garden he and his family have experienced, a lifetime of courage of the true gardener and the growth of MECO-ECOTRA (1995-2015) – a key farmers network in the Mekong region which serves as a foundation of the knowledge and values of nurturing nature through which SPERI and its predecessors organizations have, over the last 20 years, lived, learned, practiced and shared the rich treasure of the knowledge and wisdom of spiritual ecological farming methods of indigenous and Kinh majority ancestors.
Soil, pepper, green tea, vegetables, eggplants and sunflowers (a gift to HEPA by the French farmers networks) - everything nurtured by his hands in the garden share the great news with him: today he and his family are to be awarded with NatureLife International’s Rainforestation Farming Certificate of Appreciation by the Professors Göltenboth and Quale for following the principles of the Rainforestation Farming Method. His great efforts in clearing almost a half tone of mines and bombs to revive the land and return the peaceful life to all living things on that land is being recognized.
Mr. Phuoc and his model farm provides a good example for youths from villages nation-wide, who would like to have land to build up their own gardens and work on it. Being inspired by what has been witnessed in Mr. Phuoc’s garden, the young farmers such as Mr. Vang Sin Min of Hmong ethnic minority of Simacai district, Lao Cai province; Mr. Da Cat K’Goi and Cil Ha Huynh of Mnong ethnic minority, Dam Rong district, Lam Dong province, Mr. A Tho of Ka Dong ethnic minority, Mr. Loc Van Vin of San Ziu ethnic minority and Mr. A Chat of Hre ethnic minority express their strong commitment and determination by telling Mr. Phuoc “We will follow you”.
This historical day also is recognition of Mr. Phuoc’s deep and loyal love for land and human beings, for 20 years of constantly working together with the key farmers’ network of SPERI and its predecessor organizations. The newly-born Community Entrepreneur Development Institute (CENDI) today will continue this noble mission to pave the way for the farmers like Mr. Phuoc to move on more confidently, self-sufficiently, self-reliantly and responsibly to deal directly with consumers without any middleman. His garden serves a practical curriculum for educating people about the farmer’s true love for land and human beings, in transforming itself into a clean and healthy source of food for the best interest of the consumers, as a farmer vocational school, an outdoors library, a hospital, a forum for learning and sharing, and a cultural space for ecological gardeners, in which farmers, like Mr. Phuoc, will become family and community entrepreneurs working towards a good society full of wellbeing, trust, love and responsibility-sharing.
The quite, smiling and courageous Mr. Phuoc impresses all the visitors, especially the professors who feel very proud of what they have seen and heard about the genuine value and farmer identity of Mr. Hoang Huu Phuoc.
YIELDS-AGREE network (2015-2025) will continue the journey of MECO-ECOTRA (1995-2015) to love the land for being loved.
(Tran Thi Lanh, 28 March 2017 and photo of YIELDS-AGREE young eco-farmers)