The road to Nam Ai

A small village called Nam Ai was our last stop in Ha Giang, Vietnam. Driving trough a postcard landscape in between rice paddies, water buffalo's and tea trees we found our new homestay. One we will never forget.

We are here to meet the Red Dao people. they are one of the over 50 etnic people in Vietnam. They mostly live in the Ha Giang region and up there in the mountains have specialized in rice paddies and Shan tea trees. It's the tea we're here for. As we decided to start a partnership with the Red Dao cooperative (it is called Fin Ho after one of the central tea villages), we felt the need to go out and see how the Red Dao manage their tea business...

The trip to the Red Dao villages and their tea plantations was organized with the Hanoi based Center for Rural Economic Development (CRED). They invest in local training and also provide visitors with guidance and translators. The visit opened our eyes. Visiting the communities made clear that cultivating tea is not easy at all. The tea trees are growing uphill. The acres each family owns are spread out over the hills. Sometimes the tea pickers have to walk for miles to reach their trees. They also cannot fill more than one basket of leaves a time. The roads to the cooperative factory are often muddy and bumpy. Only decent motorbikes can master these roads. Still, these conditions worry us but do not seem to stress our Red Dao friends. They're used to it, even when in summertime the roads are flooded and sometimes washed away.

We asked the CRED colleagues what we could do for the community. While we thought of a project for children they advised us to participate in a new motorbike road connection to the Nam Ai village. The Long Dressed Dao people there also bring in tea to the Fin Ho cooperative and have problems with their connection. This is the good thing. We didn't insist to have it our way, we followed the advise coming from the CRED and the feedback from the communities. This is a true partnership. 

This is where Adya at the end of the trip to the Dao communities was in the mud dragging sand bags uphill. Where we saw all villagers participate with their material. Men and women, old and young. Coaching each others and moving on really fast. The mud turned into a small road in a few hours time. It will take them 7 days for 1 kilometer.

We left Nam Ai village that morning driving next to a part of the new road. A road seems to be so evident in the West, but here it isn't. This small contribution from Adya and CRED is indeed covering something fundamental, the connection from tea trees to cooperative, but also a better connection from kids to school, from home to work, and so much more.

We will come back to Nam Ai one day and drive over this kilometer of new concrete road and always remember our first stay here. 

We wish the villagers of Nam Ai and the beautiful Ha Giang region all the best. We will continue our efforts to introduce the Fin Ho tea to the public and keep all our followers posted on our projects in the field.