A man from the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam has gone to extraordinary lengths to establish a woodland that is now receiving orders from Europe and Japan.
Located in U Minh District in the southernmost Ca Mau Province, the 1,000 plus hectare forest has been established by Le Hoang The, and is now frequently visited by foreigners.
In order to reach it, one has to drive for over an hour along bumpy roads from the center of Ca Mau City to Khanh Thuan Commune in U Minh District, before travelling for another hour on a motor boat.
George Yeo, a Singaporean- American specialist in automation technology, has played a crucial role in the establishment of the wood.
Yeo has worked with The for nearly two years, and his main job is to carry out research and design specialized machines for the planting, harvesting, and processing of timber.
Everything is done by automated machines, and Yeo’s expertise has been crucial in enabling The’s forest to meet international requirements.
The previously spent many years living and studying in Japan before returning to Vietnam.
Le Hoang The (L) talks with visitors at the forest. Photo: Tuoi Tre
He was running a business in Ho Chi Minh City in 2009 before he suddenly ‘disappeared.’
His friends later discovered that The had been planting his forest in Ca Mau.
“The world is trying to cope with climate change and rising sea levels. Vietnam has signed an agreement to reduce the effect of greenhouse gases,” he elaborated on his sudden life change.
“Aside from preserving the environment, growing forests is a commercial operation,” he continued.
In 2010, the Ca Mau People’s Committee agreed to hand over a 1,200 hectare piece of land to The.
He spent a large amount of money studying the soil and testing many types of trees to determine the most suitable species to grow.
The provincial administration initially decided to grant The some 700 hectares of land the following year, whit the forest owner using his own money to buy another 300 hectares from local residents.
The woods is now 1,047 hectares and still expanding.
Employees saw the tree trunks into smaller pieces. Photo: Tuoi Tre
During timber harvesting, a specifically designed machine is used to cut down trees and transport the trunks to a gathering location, where The’s employees will saw them into smaller pieces.
The machinery was invented by Yeo to suit the geographical features of The’s woodland.
According to Luu Cuong Thinh, who is tasked with operating the machine, it takes between 20 and 25 days to chop down one hectare of trees by hand, while the new technology takes only 10 days.
Yeo has designed several other machines for planting new trees, peeling tree bark, and collecting leaves and branches.
Importantly, the forest is also eligible for the FSC-FM, a certificate granted by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) allowing timber to be exported to other countries.
In order to achieve the certification, The had to adhere to10 different policies and meet 56 criteria.
Thanks to the FSC-FM, clients from Japan, South Korea and Europe have visited the venue and signed deals with The on the provision of timber and related products.
The’s forest consists mainly of trees from the acacia auriculiformis species, whose wood is widely used for producing furniture, while their leaves and branches are a main material for biomass.