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Australian finds win-win option for farmers in Vietnam’s Hoi An

Sunday, January 12, 2020, 09:38 GMT+7
Australian finds win-win option for farmers in Vietnam’s Hoi An
Christopher Dunn makes a living from his own crafts. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Christopher Dunn finds the ancient town of Hoi An a true haven where he has helped both local farmers and the environment.

While a great many Westerners might choose big cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi as their new home, considering job opportunities and living standards, others have sought out their peace in the serene town.

An inspiration for local farmers

Dunn lives alone in a small flat in Cam Kim Commune, Hoi An.

Here he consults local farmers on best farming practices and partners with them in producing eco-friendly products. He is also an active member of organic farm groups.

Back in Australia, Dunn practiced in healthcare, but he got keyed up by the negative effects humans were inflicting on the environment.

“I’ve seen how we have damaged our own world, so I want to make a change,” he said.

“I’ve come to the farmers. I’ve shown them best practices in vegetable farming and fish farming. We have found a win-win solution.”

Since his arrival in Hoi An in mid-2015, the Australian man has extensively researched local agricultural practices.

He realized the growing trend of organic farming and saying no to plastic waste.

“Vietnamese was a tough language, but I got myself to learn it,” he said about his first obstacles.

“Then I taught myself how to ride a motorbike for daily trips to the farms.”

For years, the Aussie has frequented nearly all organic weekend markets as well as environmental talks, not just to share his concern for the environment, but also to sell his products.

It was these products that have inspired the farmers to take on an extra path.

Displayed on his shelf were fruit trays, tea cups, and tooth brushes, all made from palm spathe, banana leaves, tree bark and bagasse, the dry residue after extraction of juice from sugarcane.

There were also handbags that the man knitted himself, with a picture of the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge of the ancient town on them.

This idea sprang to his mind from a field trip with local farmers in 2017, when he took a sudden interest in a piece of palm spathe lying on the field.

The seemingly dead thing was wondrously transformed into objects both durable and eye-catching.

Christopher Dunn makes a living from his own crafts. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Christopher Dunn partners with local farmers to produce organic coffee. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

His first product over a sleepless night was a palm-spathe food tray.

This simple thing answered his burning question on how to profit from agricultural practices.

Dunn’s proposal was warmly welcomed by his fellow farmers, and contracts were soon nailed.

Together, ‘Dunn and associates’ crafted items to be sold at public markets and on the Internet.

They even reached the tourists.

'I have so much fun and all'

The 59-year-old man has only been back to Australia twice since he came to Hoi An.

“Though my family is not here, I truly feel this is where I belong,” he said.

“I miss this place every trip I make.”

In 2014, Dunn’s psychological problems urged him to leave Australia in search of balance in life.

The traveler set foot in Vietnam in 2015 and started off as an English teacher, working evening shifts at language centers.

He soon found out that his Australian accent was causing Vietnamese learners a hard time.

“I got really depressed. You know, I was old. I simply wanted some peace. I wanted to go to a place without all the hustle and bustle. I wanted to live alone,” he said.

In mid-2015, he got to know Hoi An on a trip with an American friend.

He was mesmerized by inner town alleys and the surrounding rice fields.

“The foods. The smiles. Everything here is different. I said to myself, ‘This is the place.'

“In Australia, you can make a lot of money, but you spend a lot too. But in Hoi An, I have so much fun and all.”

The most important thing to him is how his environmentally-friendly ideas have supported local farming communities.

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