Aus4EqualityUpdatesMobile app helps farmers with organic cinnamon planting

Mobile app helps farmers with organic cinnamon planting

One cool spring afternoon, the hills full of young cinnamon trees rustle in strong winds.

Taking a rest from clearing grass on the hill, Đặng Thị Diện, 30, of the Dao ethnic minority group takes her smart phone out. Instead of swiping for the latest news, she opens the newly-installed application to type in what she has done today as a diary in her account page.

The application, “QGS Electronic Diary”, has been recently introduced to over 700 families joining the organic cinnamon planting project implemented by Vina Samex JSC supported by the GREAT Program funded by the Australian government.

“It’s easy to use with many images to choose rather than words,” Diện said. “With the app, I just update the situation of my cinnamon trees, what I have done in the day and so on.

“If the trees get worms, we can take photos of the worms, update in the diary and ask the technical support what we should do to treat the worms,” Diện said. “We can get the advice very soon from experts.”

Đặng Thị Diện working in the cinnamon forest

She added that other young people of her age have found almost no difficulties in using the app but to older people, it may be a problem.

According to Nguyễn Ngọc Minh, head of the company’s Project Department, the app [a kind of electronic diary for agricultural households] is more challenging for elderly people, who rarely use smart phones.

“Presently, our technicians update the cinnamon status for elderly people,” he said. “In order to ease the process, the company is asking the Digital Verifying Technology Joint Stock Company, who supplied the app, to add more oral order functions in the app so that people can use it by speaking.”

Nguyễn Ngọc Minh training cinnamon growers on organic cinnamon cultivation

“Each family has an account to update cinnamon information on, through which our experts can get the information without taking field trips to the area,” Minh said. “We can consult farmers online on what they should do to treat a disease, or remind them to harvest when it’s time. So it’s quite convenient for both farmers and the company.”

Diện said her family joined the project two years ago and she needs to wait for one more month to harvest the first generation of organic cinnamon.

“Planting in an organic way requires more labour like clearing grass, picking worms, we have to do by hand rather than using chemicals,” she said. “But the company pledged to buy our product at a higher price than the cinnamon planted in the normal way. So we are happy for our future.”

Cinnamon trees cared for in an organic way grow stronger than the ones planted using chemicals, she added.

The company buys dry cinnamon priced between VND 50,000 and 90,000 (AUD$3-$5.50) per kilogram depending on the quality while the fresh cinnamon is bought at between VND 25,000 and 27,000 per kilogram. For organic products, the price is 15-20 % higher.

Minh said GREAT has been actively supporting the company to establish long-term cinnamon supply area in the district.

“We have hosted various training sessions on planting organic cinnamon as well as gender equality awareness for locals,” he said. “The farmers are happy with the project and have joined the sessions in large numbers.”

“Local cinnamon products have got quality standard certification from Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, so we buy local products for the long term at stable price,” he said.

Minh admitted the communicating with locals is still hindered by language barriers.

“Most of local farmers are not fluent in the Kinh majority language, so in such training sessions, we need interpreters to make sure they can understand what we train,” he said.

More than 740 families in two communes of Nậm Tha and Liêm Phú of the district are joining the organic cinnamon planting project covering a total area of over 1,250ha.

Vấn Gia Lâm, chairman of Nậm Tha Commune’s People’s Committee, said support by GREAT is crucial to the locality’s development.

“Local people have planted cinnamon for many years,” he said. “Yet the company and GREAT’s project ensures market for the products, which also helps secure stable income for locals. Organic planting also helps improve the local environment. We have spared no effort to facilitate such meaningful projects.”