A forest of trees covering several hundred hectares at the foot of Hoanh Son mountain in central Ha Tinh province has come back to life, thanks to the efforts of one man.
The man, Nguyen Tien Vit, has survived threats from illegal loggers many times. His wife and children advised him to return to his normal life, but he refuses to give up. He even patrols tens of kilometres across the forest each day to make sure it is protected.
The locals, of course, call the newly treed area “Vit Forest”. Vit, 67, has spent nearly 30 years planting and protecting trees in the forest, which was seriously damaged by illegal logging from the 1990s.
The green area in Ky Thuong commune in Ky Anh district had almost became a bare hill before Vit intervened. The destruction was mostly caused by local people cutting down trees to build houses or to take land for short-term industrial plants.
But Vit realised that if the trees kept falling, the forest would disappear and that natural disasters, like flood and drought, could become worse.
So he decided to save the forest. He asked local authorities to hand it over to him for protection. Many local citizens called him “crazy” because they thought it was a hopeless task. But Vit did not care. He was determined to revive the “green lung” of the province.
"I spent my childhood with the forest. It was so sad to see trees being destroyed. I just want to protect and expand the forest,” he said.
He started his plan by patiently keeping and taking care of each stump left by loggers to help them grow again. He also turned unused land around the forest into orchards full of oranges, mandarins and grapefruit, which has brought him an annual income of tens of millions of Dong.
Vit spends this money buying seeds and seedlings of trees such as acacia, eucalyptus and cajeput.
His work is carefully planned. He plants trees in different layers so that high trees create shade for fruit trees.
Vit even went and lived in the forest to have more time to protect it. He had no electricity, water or household equipment. He even had to face threats from illegal loggers.
After 27 years, the forest has now mostly recovered. There are trees up to 30-40m with diametres of between 30-50cm. He also turned “empty” land around the forest into the land of hundreds of fruits trees, which has brought him an annual income of tens of millions of Dong.
Vit has co-ordinated with local authorities to consult and advise local citizens not to cut down trees.
What makes local people admire Vit is that he never cuts down any trees for personal use.
“Ky Thuong commune has the hottest climate in Ha Tinh province and is often stricken by natural disasters. The forest serves as an air conditioner for local people in summer and as a shield to protect them from floods and storms,” he said.
Nguyen Tien Hiep, head of Ky Hop forest management station, said the forest had survived and thrived thanks to Vit, who has hopes of one day turning the area into an ecological tourism site.VNA