Life sprouts from rocky mountains

By Ngoc Thanh   July 27, 2016 | 04:30 pm PT
Living off the rocks: Ethnic groups in northern are cultivating a seemingly impenetrable plateau.

To the north of Ha Giang Province, there’s a famous stone plateau home to ethnic minorities like the Mong, Dao, Lo Lo and Pu Peo. The steep mountainous terrain, coupled with a cold climate and a shortage of water, has driven locals to form a lifestyle they call “living with stones, buried under stones”.


Ethnic people take advantage of every single patch of soil on the rocky terrain. This cultivation technique has been passed down from generation to generation.


Farming is time-consuming and labor-intensive. As the proportion of arable land on the plateau is fairly low, people have to fetch soil from other sites to create gardens. They also build stone walls around their gardens to prevent soil from being washed away.


Ethnic people use a large area of land to grow corn in addition to vegetables. They don’t use fertilizers or pesticides so each crop depends almost entirely nature. 


The tools are quite primitive, including ploughs, rakes and hoes. People start a new crop in the second month of the lunar calendar, after the traditional Tet holiday.


After plowing, local farmers pour spread animal manure on the land.


People bury seeds under the ground.


On the plateau, everyone works together, and even kids are involved. 


Unlike ethnic communities in the Central Highlands who use sticks to dig holes in the ground, local people here just use their bare hands.

Corn seeds are soaked in water for two to three days prior so that they sprout quickly.


People choose “good days” according to the calendar to sow seeds as they believe this will result in a good harvest.


The Hmong community also grow flax to provide materials for their clothes.

Farming techniques on the plateau were recognized as one of Vietnam’s intangible cultural heritages by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2012.

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