Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Little House on the Paddy Life in a Northern Vietnam Village

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Little House on the Paddy Life in a Northern Vietnam Village

Article excerpt

At day's end there is a pretty view of rolling green hills from a porch in this village in northern Vietnam. The evening breeze shuffles the leaves on the eucalyptus trees and the sun's angled rays grace the rice paddies with a luminous sheen.

Life is good for farmer Hoang Van Quang, his wife, Nguyen Thi Hanh, their three children, and two in-laws - Mr. Quang's mother and his younger sister. The family's animals are just one sign of prosperity: A water buffalo glares from its paddock, four pigs grunt and roll over in their sty, and underfoot, eight ducklings and 35 chickens peck their way toward table-readiness.

It is no thanks to socialism, but this family is in the middle of an economic great leap forward. Everyone is anticipating the day, a year or two from now, when they can trade in their wood house for the sturdy prestige of brick. The parents are proud that their two daughters do well in school and hope they will eventually attend a teachers' college in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, about 45 miles to the south. Not too long ago, everyone in this village farmed collectively. Whistles went off at 7 a.m. and then at 11 a.m. to mark the morning shift, and afternoon work hours ran from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. About five years ago - Quang doesn't remember exactly - the government gave him "land-usage certificates" that effectively granted the family ownership of several acres of paddy, as well as land to raise vegetables and fruit trees. Technically, "the people" hold title to all the land in Vietnam. But Quang and his wife consider that they have "full autonomy" over their property. "If we work hard, we get more; if we work less, we get less," Quang says. And they set their own schedule. The end of collective farming was part of a massive shift in Vietnam's economy that began in the late 1980s. The Communist planners in Hanoi decided that state-controlled socialism - absent aid from the Soviet Union - would lead to disaster and embraced a policy of free-market reforms. …

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