- Cultural Identity and Resource Use Management (CIRUM) focuses its activities in capacity building, sustainable forest management for the local people and preserve their cultural identities.
I was an interpreter for a training course to make documentaries, reportages and “story telling” footages for the staff of CIRUM, SPERI (Social Policy Ecology Research Institute), Forestland Network and key farmers. This was the Center’s effort to improve their staff’s knowledge as well as enhance report quality. Instead of dry reports which are less and less interested, there will be documentaries, reportages reflecting the local people’s feelings and aspiration.
The course preparation was quite thoughtful to ensure the training quality. One month before the training, I followed an advance team to choose project locations for training practice. Our first stop was at Ho Muoi hamlet, Minh Son commune, Huu Lung district, Lang Son province. We went through a bumpy road to Mr. Nhang’s home. He was a major farmer of the hamlet. Entering Mr. Nhang’s house, we felt another world. The middle of a mountainous area, there located a three-room cool house with a mountain at the back and a fish pond in the front. The arrangement of his piggery and hen coop was scientific and clean.
His forest was just a few steps from his house. When going to the forest, the local people here use a hooked-shaped knife to clear their way. Mr. Nhang’s forest was dense with many indigenous trees grown rampantly such as: ironwood, chestnut …There were a lot of mosquitoes which loved strangers like us. Mr. Peter King, a CIRUM volunteer was most “enthusiastically” welcome by them. He said that next time he would bring some anti-mosquito chemicals. Mr. Nhang said: ”My predecessors went here to settle down their life over 90 years ago. We luckily still keep 4ha of forest including some ironwood of over 27 years of age. Keeping the forest, we can keep the water resources and leave a clean environment for our successors. The forest also generates income for our home”. Ms. Nguyet, his wife, sat down at an ironwood root and collected some brown, white colourful mushrooms. She said: “only with this amount, we can already sell it for 300,000 - 400,000 Dong”.
CIRUM people came here since 2005. They helped to enhance the local people’s awareness, lobby to speed up the process of forest allocation to farmers. Thanks to efforts, the local people here know well the importance of forest and subjectively preserve their forests for the next generation. The forests can keep water, provide precious medicinal plants, specialties with high value. Ho Muoi was also famous with wine fermented by a kind of leaves grown in the forest. Wine made from this ferment has good flavor. People do not have headache when drinking too much this wine unlike other kind of wine. CIRUM also helped the local women’s association there to develop “bo khai” vegetable, a specialty of Lang Son.
Living in the city with a lot of concerns, experiencing a country life with the local people here was very fascinating. No delicacy was needed, only vegetable around them, they could treat their guests well with “Bo khai” vegetable in their garden, carp from their pond, bamboo shoot in their forest, breakfast with corn soup- just simple but very delicious.
Leaving Huu Lung, we proceeded to Dinh Lap district, a poorest one in Lang Son. The commune we were heading to the poorest area of Dinh Lap district- that was Back Lang commune. The criteria of CIRUM for choosing a project location is simple, she asked the province which was the poorest district and the poorest commune for establishing a project. The road leading to the district was every difficult but the route to Bang Lang commune was even harder. There was no rain but a lot of big holes. The car was bogged down. We tried to help the driver to push the car out of the hole but in vain. We therefore left the car and the driver and walked to Khe Vap hamlet. When we arrived we could understand how hard life was the local people’s life here. Everything was self-supplied from rice, corn, nuts to port, chicken. Hardly we arrived, Mr. Tuan, the driver was able to lift the car out of the muddy hole and drove all the difficult way to Khe Vap hamlet…
Then came the devotion training days both theory and practice. The learners came from different centers, hamlets, communes where CIRUM projects are implemented. Looking at the learners passionately at the cameras, IPADS learning theories as well as practicing footage making, it was hardly to imagine they were from Tay, Ma Lieng, Mong ethnic minorities. If they have chance they can learn and work not less than the Kinh people. The theory and practice lessons in Hanoi under the guidance of Mr. Danny, an Australian expert of documentary film making. After one week, the learners knew to take a nice footage, 1/3 rule, long shots, mid shots, closeup, extreme closeup then making storyboards, treatments, shotlists… The learners could assess to the software to treat, edit their footages. The training could be hardly successful without the explanation, supplementary ideas of Mr. Toan, the Center expert with long experience in film making, photographing and communications. Having good knowledge of both theory and practice in Hanoi, the group proceeded to Khe Vap hamlet and and Dong Thang commune of Lang Son province. Both of them are in the locations of CIRUM projects. In Khe Vap, one team made a documentary on a secrete forest where the forest was preserved by customary laws of the hamlet. In Dong thang, one team made footages on personal stories of the local people whose wish was to bring their forest tea to the cities. The other team recorded rice planting festival of the Dao minority.
I am especially impressed by the CIRUM’s staff, Mr. Su, Vice Director is very smart in people’ mobilization, close to local people like his relatives. The young staff, Tham and Thai who spend more time in the project sites than Hanoi. Huyen, Tay minority is energetic and hardworking. Min, Mong minority, with his great learning passion, posed a lot of questions to Mr. Danny. Chinh, Ma Lieng minority, a little reserved, but was very seriously with his lessons. Notably the two drivers Tuan and Thanh who are pluripotential and of versatile talent. They are not only drivers but take care of logistic, organization works with good knowledge of English. Following them, we can understand their hard and dangerous works. Quite often, they faced with slippery and muddy roads with mountains on one side and abysses on the other. At that time, both Westerners and Vietnamese went out of the cars leaving the drivers with the cars. They skillfully drove the cars out of dangerous roads which were impossible to safely pass without their courage
It’s right to say “Travel broadens your mind”. My experience with CIRUM is unforgettable. Confining 8 hours a day in a diplomatic office, I thought everything was easy and simple. However, there are people outside who do not mind hardships and difficulties to follow their big ambition and aspiration of protecting the Mother Nature, helping local people to develop indigenous trees and preserve their cultural identities. By various ways, they are quietly contributing their small parts to make this life better.
Do Ngoc Lan