Becoming a billionaire by growing cinnamon

September 04, 2021 | 14:23
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Local residents' efforts to cover the hills with cinnamon fields, a valued herbal tree, have changed the face of the northern province of Yen Bai.
Becoming a billionaire by growing cinnamon
Bank staff at VBSP Yen Bai in Van Chan district helping Giang A Sau in depositing money

“A billionaire is coming”, the whispers spread out across a transaction unit based in Van Yen district's An Luong commune of the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP) in Yen Bai province as Giang A Sau, a young local arrived carrying a heavy bag of money, followed by his wife and young child.

Sau piled money on the table, saying that he wanted to deposit VND4 billion ($173,910) that he earned from selling one of his cinnamon hills. Bank staff helped the young man count the money while everyone looked on with eyes of admiration.

Giang A Sau is not the person owning the largest cinnamon field area in An Luong commune, as commune officials say many other households have several dozen hectares of cinnamon fields. But the story of his making money from cinnamon trees is unlike others.

In the 1990s, Sau often left the village to make a living elsewhere as his homeland was bereft of almost everything: no fields, no decent roads, no electricity, and very little water.

Eventually, he found out that there is no place safer than home and settled down at his home village to grow cinnamon forests to protect water resources.

The larger cinnamon trees grow, the higher theri value. In the first years, to make a living, Sau grew rice and other cereals on his cinnamon fields which also helped reduce grass, floods, and nourished cinnamon trees by keeping the soil humid.

His efforts paid off. In the 2019 season, Sau sold a cinnamon hill for VND3 billion ($130,430), setting a record not only in An Luong commune but also in Van Chan district. Early this June, he sold his other hill for VND4 billion, breaking his own record. He deposited the whole sum at VBSP’s Van Chan district and became the largest depositor across VBSP’s system in Yen Bai province.

The cinnamon trees have been grown in An Luong commune for many years now. Not just a herbal tree, cinnamon trees are regarded as the "money" tree by ethnic minorities in the area as all parts of the tree can be sold, from branches and leaves to the trunk, bark, and even the roots.

In the late 1990s, Dang Van Thong, an old man living in Tang Cham hamlet, logged down and sold seven cinnamon trees to buy a Honda Dream motorbike for a more than VND30 million ($1,300). The story had created a stir in the province's different parts, encouraging many locals to start growing cinnamon trees.

These days, the hills and mountains in An Luong are covered with a lush green coverage of cinnamon trees, and the entire commune is now home to more than 1,700ha of this valued tree.

These days, the hills and mountains in An Luong are covered with the lush green coverage of cinnamon trees and the commune is now home to more than 1,700ha of this tree.

According to Loc Van Doan, Deputy Chairman of An Luong People’s Committee, in light of the communal Party Committee’s latest resolution, the cinnamon growing area will reach 2,200ha by 2025. Currently, a kg of preprocessed cinnamon skin fetches around VND100,000 ($4.35); the leaves can fetch VND1,500-1,600 (6.5-7 US cents) per kg, while a trunk of more than 30cm in radius is also sellable.

Doan is confident that An Luong commune would soon reach the target, turning the area into a thriving cinnamon "kingdom" as Dai Son and Vien Son communes in Van Yen district.

These days, the people of ethnic minorities in An Luong commune are growing more vocal about their need for decent roads and power infrastructure to improve their daily lives. With better roads and stable power, more households would build permanent houses and could use machinery for production to drive down the rate of poor and near-poor households in the area.

The project to build Nghia Lo-Mau A Road crossing An Luong commune is now under intensive constructionm and transmission lines are being laid to provide more households in An Luong with access to power, helping to make the dreams of the local H’Mong, Dao, and Tay people come true.

By Hong Thuy

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