Pretty Woman Saves The Roses

A project to grow roses for export in three communes of Hai Duong Province landed thousands of local farmers deep in debt. But just when the whole thing was about to collapse in ruins, a pretty woman appeared and took over the project, giving new life to 6.7 hectares of roses.

Farmers pull up their roses to grow rice again

She is the 41-year-old Ms. Tran Hong Hanh and her nursery is located in Gia Xuyen Commune, 10 kilometers from Hai Duong City.

Not long ago, just last year in fact, the roses-for-export project in nearby Gia Loc Commune withered away entirely. Local people at the time use the phrase “funeral roses” when they talked about the failed project.

It was no exaggeration as the roses were tiny and their stems and branches were full of thorns. No florist wanted anything to do with them, and the only buyers were the makers of funeral wreaths. Even then, they were only prepared to pay between VND150 and VND200 per rose.

Most of the growers in the three communes had no choice but to pull up their roses and go back to rice. The “dream of flowers” evaporated and left only debt behind, huge debts in many cases. For instance, the total amount of debt incurred by the rose growers in the third commune, Doan Thuong, was nearly VND6 billion.

It was at the moment of deepest despair that Hanh showed up and decided to rehabilitate the project.

“When I heard about the failure, I went to Gia Loc right away,” she said. “My heart was heavy at the sight of huge piles of dead branches like dry sticks of wood in the fields. I thought that the company that owned the project probably did not know the right growing techniques. It even crossed my mind that they might have set up the project as a way of cheating the poor farmers.”

Ms. Tran Hong Hanh, the woman revives the moribund project of growing roses

Hanh went to see the leaders of Gia Xuyen and Gia Loc communes to persuade them to assign the project to her. No one believed that she could revive the moribund project until she proved the feasibility of it. To learn the correct growing techniques, she read books, visited flower villages in the north and south of Viet Nam and spoke with experienced growers, and went searching for new and appropriate varieties of roses. She even flew to France, Holland and Belgium to learn the latest in hybridizing roses.

“To strive for success, I didn’t hesitate to roll up my sleeves and pants legs to work together with my workers,” she said. “If I make it, I can help thousands of farmers repay their debts and after that live a better life.”

The project resumed in November 2006 and, by the end of the year, Hanh had harvested the first crop. It was the Lunar New Year (Tet), so her roses had a very good chance of selling at the Hai  Duong City Tet Fair and becoming known.

“Our roses sold like hot cakes. Instead of being cut, they were grown in small pots so that they would live longer,” she said. “We made more than VND50 billion from two hectares of roses.”

When asked about the future, Hanh replied, “You know, I’ve already made my plans. From now to the end of the year, I’m going to transfer growing techniques, capital and new varieties to the farmers in Gia Loc Commune. After that I will purchase their plants and process them into an essential oil for a French perfume manufacturer.”  

By Van Phuc – Translated by Phuong Lan

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