Bay Hong – The labour Hero of Rice Farming

Vo Thi Hong, alias Bay Hong, is the first female farmer in Dong Thap Muoi (the Plain of Reeds) who was given the title of Labour Hero by the State in 1986 for her exemplary exploits in reclaiming the land for growing rice, making a contribution to turning it into a big granary of the country. She was then 36 years old.

When asking for the house of Bay Hong in the commune of Kien Tuong, Long An Province, we were quite surprised when learning that she is known by most of the locals and called by the familiar and respective names of “Mrs. Hong driving plough machine” or “the Labour Hero of Rice Farming” that refers to her talent in reclaiming land for rice cultivation.

Hong was born into a farming family in 1950. She is the sixth child in her family so she is called “Bay Hong” – the way people in Southern Vietnam call their sixth sister. During the resistance war against the US, although she was little she worked as a liaison person who rowed a sampan to carry secret letters and documents for the liberation army. This dangerous work helped her become intrepid, diligent and cautious.

After national reunification, the State had policies on reclaiming land in Dong Thap Muoi for rice cultivation with the application of scientific and technical advances. Hong was one among the locals who pioneered the process of waste land reclamation to turn this land into the largest rice production area in the country. Overcoming untold difficulties, she reclaimed and transformed over 30ha of waste land of lush sedges and applied some measures to carrying fresh water to the fields, wash away alum and salt water and spread fertilizer for rice cultivation. She at that time was the only female farmer who could drive a plough machine.

Vo Thi Hong is one of the pioneers in reclaiming land for rice growing in Dong Thap Muoi. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Vo Thi Hong and farmers visit the rice fields. Photo:Thong Hai/VNP

Vo Thi Hong exchanges ideas in rice growing in alkaline soil with farmers in Dong Thap Muoi. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Vo Thi Hong and a farmer examine a paddy. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

She reclaimed and transformed over 30ha of waste land of lush sedges to the rice fields. Photo: Le Minh/VNP

Thanks to special achievements in reclaiming the land for growing rice,
Vo Thi Hong was given many noble titles. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

After years of toil in the fields, Hong accumulated a huge knowledge about rice farming techniques and rice varieties which are suitable for cultivation in this alum soil. Furthermore, she successfully applied measures to increasing rice crops, from only one crop/year with a total output of 1-2tonnes/ha to two or three crops/year with a number reaching 7-8tonnes/ha and even 10-11tonnes/ha. Thanks to her success in reclaiming waste land for rice cultivation and efforts to increase rice crops to improve productivity, Hong became an exemplary individual for other farmers in the Cuu Long River delta to learn from. Therefore, at the National Hero and Emulation Soldier Congress in 1986, the 36 year-old woman was given the title of Labour Hero. She was also one of three delegates who were invited to report to the congress their achievements in agriculture.

Recalling what she obtained in the past, Hong modestly said: “I grow rice not in emulation, but for overcoming difficulties caused by nature to escape poverty with my hands and mind”.

Story: Son Nghia – Photos: Le Minh & Thong Hai