Diversity strengthens unity in coastal hamlet

Lac Da Hamlet is celebrating. Nguyen Cong Nghiem, a Tay man, has built a house, and more than 300 guests have been invited. And they all have turned up for the housewarming party.

The happy married couple and their baby in the newly-built house.

As is the custom among the Tay ethnic minority, each of Nghiem’s three brothers have brought a roasted pig, and each of his relatives have carried a 20 liter can of wine to his home as gifts. There is plenty to eat and drink, and everyone is making merry.

Nghiem moved to Lac Dao from Lang Son, a distant province in northern Vietnam and settled here since early 1991. Less than two decades later, Nghiem has been able to build a wide house with a mezzanine worth over VND200 million. He is happy that there are so many people sharing his family’s joys.

The happiest person maybe his 70-year old mother who caught the bus from Lang Son to Phu Yen to congratulate her son’s family. “I can’t miss the party. It’s our custom, you know. Parents always come to their children’s new houses to give them their good wishes no matter how far away they live. I’m very glad that my son and his family now have a spacious house.”

But the hamlet is celebrating more than a housewarming party.

One of the guests, Nguyen Van Cong, official of Dong Cam Irrigation System, says: “Organizing a party/ reception to celebrate an event and sending invitations to all villagers is a common practice here as the people in the hamlet treat each other like brothers.”

It is the camaraderie and bonhomie among the 500 or so residents from seven different Vietnamese ethnicities - Kinh, Tay, Nung, Cham, H’roi, Ba Na, E De and Man, living in 150 households, that makes the hamlet special.

The mixture of various races and cultural differences have seen an original lifestyle emerge in the mountainous land that is seen as a new economic zone these days.

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Cong came to Lac Dao to work for the Irrigation System in 2003. On his way home from the party, he says: “Nghiem is not the only lucky person in the hamlet who can have a decent house of his own. Five years ago, when I just arrived here, Lac Dao was a thinly populated village. There were only a few concrete and wooden houses in the area. Most of villagers lived in thatched-roof cottages and makeshift huts with bamboo wattles.”

Pointing to huge piles of bricks and steel bars to be used for building new houses on both sides of the street leading to the Hinh River Hydropower project, Cong adds: “Nowadays, more and more concrete houses have been built and turned the wild land into a populous settlement zone . It’s an incredible change, indeed!”

Nguyen Van Toan, Chairman of Son Thanh Tay Commune People’s People Committee, recalls: “I came here from Thanh Hoa Province in 1980. Actually, I was one of the first two Vietnamese people to settle down here. At that time, Lac Dao was a deserted mountainous land with vast green forests. Only a few scattered groups of Ba Na, Cham and H’ roi people depending on nomadic farming for their livelihood lived here.

“Then there was only a small unpaved, slushy path that linked the land with the outside world. People didn’t dare to go out of the house after 5:00 P.M. as they could be attacked by wild fierce animals at anytime.”

Then people from Tuy Hoa District (now Tuy Hoa City) began to flock here. Between 1989 and 1990, the land also attracted the immigration of Tay and Nung from Northern provinces. People began to work to change the waste land into cultivated areas. Growing crops and breeding livestock brought a stable life to the migrants.

In mid 1990’s, an asphalt road built to serve the logistical needs of the Hinh River Hydro Electricity Project, together with the Government’s development programs created more favorable conditions for infrastructure development in Lac Dao.

Says Le Thanh Doat, head of Lac Dao Hamlet: “The land here used to be belong to the hamlet’s forestry farm, but now it has been distributed to the locals to farming. Each household now has between 1.5 and 6 hectares growing cassava or sugarcane. They also raise cattle, pigs and poultry. At present, there are only 13 poor households in the hamlet.” 

By Quyen Khanh – Translated by Phuong Lan

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