It was a hot, humid day in Can Tho, the biggest city in Mekong delta, when I was traveling from the land to Son Island. Even though it was only 15 minutes from the city, just a few of local people know about it. Maybe, it’s not an attractive place for tourism. I was brought there by Delta Youth Alliance group. Organized by Mekong school alumnus 2008 – Ly Quoc Dang, Delta Youth Alliance is a group of young people come from many places in Mekong Delta. Most of them are Can Tho university’s students. Some students are studying Environment, some are not, but they all share common interest in getting involved in environmental issues.
Thus, the trip to Son Island was a field trip to experience how the life of farmers there and what challenges they are facing. Son Island was known as “Five No:” no clean water, no electricity, no road, no school and no health care center. People there just reached clean water last few months from Climate Change Committee Office (CCCO) and Rockefeller Foundation (1). During the trip, students walked around the island to observe how farmers there grow fruit, vegetable, fishery and talked during the walk. There several points were discussed:
(1) The farmers grow fruit themselves and sale at local markets. However, customers prefer to buy fruits in supermarkets or big franchise like Big C, Co-opmart or Metro because price there is cheaper and everything looks fresher, cleaner than in local market. Hence, modern lives makes farmer becomes poorer instead of developing their lives.
(2) In order to protect their lands, villagers in Son Island had make dyke to avoid from land erosion. But as Vietnam is one of the top countries affected severely by climate change. The water level increase plus with the current flows faster by upper Mekong dams will make the situation more serious.
Around noon, our group stopped at a villager’s house and shared together their ideas and feelings during the walk. After walking around the island, discussing information and stories, everyone agreed that this trip’s good experience for them. Especially, for some students, it was their first time to see by themselves a local village on island. Even though they’re living 10 km from the island, they’ve never been there before.
Personally, the trip inspired me and my works that I should help to make local people develop their lives the way they would like to be, not the way everyone supposes it should be. Importantly, I could see the students’ energy and willing in learning. The trip with Delta Youth Alliance will be a first step to increase youth’s voice in Mekong Delta and encourage further activities in future.
(1) Source: Ky Quang Vinh, 2003
Photos by Thuy Le