Craft villages in Mekong Delta wait for floods

During recent days, the water level in the Riverhead of the Mekong River is rising but it remains at a low level. According to forecasts of hydro-meteorological centers, the flood will not be high this year and may reach its peak at the end of September. However, the craft villages in the Mekong Delta have started to wait for floods.

Farmers in Hong Ngu Town in Dong Thap Province are sizing bamboo strips  to make bamboo crab traps. (Photo: SGGP)

Farmers in Hong Ngu Town in Dong Thap Province are sizing bamboo strips to make bamboo crab traps. (Photo: SGGP)

Unlike the bustling atmosphere in previous years in craft villages making fishing gears, namely Thom Rom fishing-net village in Thot Not District in Can Tho City, Lai Vung fishing-net village, and the crab trap village in Hong Ngu Town in Dong Thap Province, this year, most of the activities are quite subdued. 

Mr. Nguyen Van Ghi in Binh Thanh Commune of Hong Ngu Town in Dong Thap Province, one of the households with the tradition of making bamboo-crab traps, said that floods from the upstream were late this year and were at a lower level than the average of many years, so the fishing season in the upstream has just begun. Therefore, the consumption in fishing-tool craft villages is not as high as that in previous years. According to Mr. Ghi, in this area, when floods arrive, craft villages are often bustling. Every year, to prepare for the making of bamboo crab traps, around March, farmers start to buy bamboo for sizing and drying. All materials are ready by June and July when farmers start to make bamboo crab traps upon orders. He has to go to Hong Ngu District to select each old bamboo tree to make quality crab traps that can be used for 2-3 seasons. This year, the number of orders is few, but he still makes crab traps and waits for floods in the coming days.

With his experience of over 20 years, Mr. Ghi said that local people make bamboo crab traps all year round, but now they feel bad because the flood is nearly one month late. If his family made about 4,000 bamboo crab traps to deliver to customers in previous years, there are only about 2,000 crab traps made this year. Although this craft depends on the flood water, it is a craft that has supported many households for several decades. No matter what the situation is, they will have to produce in moderation and wait for floods to come.

Mr. Le Van Phuc in Binh Thanh Commune in Hong Ngu Town, who has worked as a bamboo crab trap maker for more than 15 years, shared that currently, the price of bamboo crab traps on the market is VND28,000-VND30,000 per item, after deducting costs, for each trap, the trap makers earn a profit of VND10,000-VND15,000. Products are sold mainly in the province and the neighboring province of Long An and exported to Cambodia. Farmers cannot make a fortune by this craft but they can have stable income by it during the flooding season. 

‘Earlier this year, consumption was not strong, hopefully, there will be more orders in the next few days, so that farmers can have more income,’ he said.

Waiting for floods

Farmers living in the flooding area of Dong Thap Muoi (Plains of Reed) are still waiting for floods every day to exploit aquatic products for their living. In more than ten years living here, Mr. Ngo Van Dot has never witnessed such a harsh nature.

According to Mr. Dot's observation, at Xa Mac sluice gate, one of the first sluice gates to welcome floods in the upstream area of Thuong Thoi Hau A Commune in Hong Ngu District in Dong Thap Province, a few days ago, the water was still overflowing the fields, but now it has poured into the river. 

‘This year, the flood is the lowest, there are some floods but I do not know how they will go because the weather has changed so much. In the past, when the water went up, water in this sluice was flowing all the time, but now the water flows back to the river, drying up the fields. This year there is not much fish, because floods come late, so there is no water. Now, farmers live in moderation, waiting for the time to sow the winter-spring rice crop,’ Mr. Dot sadly said.

People in the flooding areas mainly live by fishing. People, who have land, live on cultivation and catch fish for daily meals. As for the people who depend on the floods, if the flood is low, they have no other choice but to go to deeply-flooded areas or to catch fish on the distributaries of the Tien River to make a living. Unfortunately, in general, the nets in this season are not optimistic. In previous years, around this month, people had pocketed a few million Vietnamese dongs, earning from fishing, casting the net, and placing traps, but now the flood is not high, it is even difficult for them to earn VND100,000 from these above activities.

In the fields in Hong Ngu District, floods have not come yet. Farmers living in this area said that they had plowed the soil to wait for the floods to come, bringing alluvium with them, but now the fields are still dry. Fishing gears are now lying in the field, forecasting a difficult new crop.

By Tin Huy – Translated by Gia Bao

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