For the past few years, a group of farmers in An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta have grown medicinal herbs on deserted, or temporarily unused, land and supplied local clinics with hundreds of tons of fresh herbs to offer poor people free treatment.
The lush fields of medicinal herbs, grown by the group in Chau Phu District, have also created green landscapes around unfinished buildings and abandoned land.
The back of Vinh Thanh Trung commune’s commercial residential area, which was abandoned in 2007 and once riddled with garbage and frequented by drug addicts, is now filled with endless fields of medicinal herbs.
Group leader Tran Van Lanh, a local farmer and philanthropist, shared that the natural alternative medicine resources in the Mekong Delta are almost gone, while local demand for alternative medicine, particularly among needy people, is huge.
Therefore, Lanh came up with the idea of borrowing the land from the government to grow herbs with medicinal properties.
He and his friends then spent their own money renting bulldozers to flatten the land, weed, sow plants, and take care of the fields on a daily basis.
The silt-laden, fertile sand used in the area helps the herbs, including “dau,” “tu bi,” “bo bo,” and “diep ha chau,” thrive.
Lanh added that the crops can be harvested every four months, with care needed most at the beginning.
The three-hectare area can yield over 100 tons of fresh herbs a year. This crop is then supplied to local alternative medicine clinics.
The group recently borrowed another 30-hectare piece of deserted land in the province’s Chau Doc City to grow more herbs.
Lanh and other group members travel some 30km every week to take care of their new fields, which are less fertile, as they receive more sun and less rain.
Most of the group members are poor farmers who were cured of their chronic illnesses thanks to alternative medicine, or traditional or herbal medicine.
“Alternative medicine, which is quite cheap, works particularly well for certain illnesses. We are poor and can’t donate money, so we grow these herbs to help needy patients,” a member shared.
Lanh, who has spent a major part of his income on charitable activities, is hopeful that he will be able to borrow several more pieces of unused land to grow more medicinal herbs and help more poor people.