Last update 8/3/2011 8:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

When farmers desert their villages

VietNamNet Bridge – Confronting disadvantages in every way, young farmers in the Mekong Delta have flocked to big cities to change their lives.

The Mekong Delta cries for help

The Mekong Delta’s deadly foibles 

According to senior farmers, in the past, every harvest season, seasonal workers from many provinces flocked to the Mekong Delta to build tents near rice fields to work as hired reapers. But it happened many years ago.

In late June 2011, the Mekong Delta was at the peak of the harvest season but all families faced labor shortage. There were no hired laborers from other regions. Even on-the-spot labor was in serious shortage. Only old people and children appeared on the field. This has been a fact in the delta for years.

“At the early harvest season, the pay for hired reapers was VND140,000 per 1,000sq.m. It rose to VND200,000-250,000 per 1,000sq.m during the peak season. That price is very high but we cannot recruit enough reapers,” farmer Bay An in Lang Bien commune, Dong Thap province told VietNamNet.

Don’t want to be farmers

It is popular to see farmers leaving their native land. Several years ago, at a national workshop, lawyer Pham Duy Nghia warned of three clear threats to the countryside: farmers lose their fields, farmers are fed up with fields, and farmers fed up with the countryside.

Scientific reports also confirm the fact that part of farmers do not want to be farmers anymore, because profit from rice is not enough for life. For old people, who are not demanding, they try to live with modest earnings from rice but the youth, they are sensitive to the gap between the living standard in the rural and the urban areas. They want to seek a better life.

That is why more and more young farmers migrate to cities or get married with foreign men, wishing to have better life; Son, from the Institute for Mekong Delta Research and Development said.

However, these people are facing many problems with their new life since they did not prepare for the change. Poorly-trained, they have to do simple, hard jobs which are as hard as farming job. They have to live in privation in poor areas in big cities and their lives are not better than their old lives in the countryside.

Many young girls become garment workers in cities, earning VND2 million ($85) a month. They send home VND800,000 ($35) and live with VND1.2 million ($50) in the time of inflation.

Nguyen Minh Nhi, former Chairman of An Giang province, said that young workers at industrial zones are living by selling their physical labor and their earnings are not higher than that of hired reapers.

But they do not want to return to their home villages because the thought of being a worker is better than a farmer and the life in cities are more civilized than in the rural.

The lesson from Bulgaria is valuable for Vietnam. When agriculture disappeared, this country – which used to have good agricultural economy – has to import almost all of its food.

According to experts, reducing the rate of farmers and increasing the rate of townsmen will be recognized as the achievement of development, because if part of the farmers go to town, it means the per capita land area for farmers increases, which is better for large-scale agricultural development.

But in the Mekong Delta, the migration of farmers is unplanned and unorganized. This migration makes great pressure on big cities like HCM City.

Dr. Pham Duy Nghia from the Hanoi National University suggested: “To prevent farmers from being fed up with their fields, the state needs to reconsider policies that have impacts on agricultural products to benefit farmers. Farmers only cling to their fields when the prices for agricultural products are good”.

“Nobody wants to leave their home, but if the gap of living standards between the rural and the urban areas is getting wider, we will se see more emigrations in the future, which can destroy cities and rural culture. This is the responsibility of the state to regulate this trend. The later we start it, the more costly we have to pay,” Dr. Nghia said in a workshop.

Thu Ha