Revitalising traditional lac production for indigenous people in Muong Lat District, Thanh Hoa province
The resin of lac is secreted by lac-producing insect (Lacca Kerria) which parasites in certain plants. The resin is used in industries, especially in cover painting and electrical insulation.
In Vietnam, the ecological sites of lac consist of mountainous districts near the Laos -Vietnamese frontier in Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Hoa Binh, Son La, Lai Chau. In these provinces, lac develops well between 200-700 meters above the sea level.
Lac breeding is a traditional activity of ethnic minorities in these provinces. Their breeding techniques are simple, based mainly on experience from previous generations. Host plants for lac breeding are divided into two groups: long-life and short-life plants. Long-life plants consist of 40 kinds, and the short-life plants are Thieu bean (Fabaceae). With a rich crop, lac resin is an important resource to cover daily expenses for local households.
Vietnam has been exporting lac resin for centuries. According to Indian specialists, the resin productivity per plant in Vietnam is greater than that in India and as great as that in Thailand.
Despite the advantages and the government’s special concern, lac breeding has disappeared in the last two decades. A lac exporter in the 1980s, Vietnam has not produced enough for domestic demand. Vietnam has even imported lac for several past years. Recently, some provinces and local people have desired to recover their traditional lac breeding. However, they are facing some difficulties:
- Breeding experiences has disappeared for a long time
- Host long-life plants have been cut down
- High price of resin causes burglary, especially in the breeding duration
- Exporting markets have discontinued for nearly thirty years while the domestic demands are low. Therefore, recovering of for lac markets needs support from the provincial and central administrators as well as forestry producers and exporters.
Thanh Hoa is one of three provinces which had the highest productivity of lac in the 1960s and 1970s. Quang Hoa, Muong Lat districts in Thanh Hoa are located in the ecological site of lac, where many households traditionally bred lac.
Muong Lat has the total area of over 80,000 ha, in which 45,000 ha is the forestry area. 98 percents of local people are ethnic minorities with the majorities of the Thai (79%) and the Mong (18%). This is the poorest remote district with bad infrastructure. It is difficult to travel in rainy season due to road or mountain collapses. These factors challenge local people in their agriculture and forestry work. Muong Lat forest lands are poor, appropriate for developing Co Phen (Schleichera Trijuga) trees and other long-life trees such as Sung (Ficus racemosa L.), Coi, Vang Anh (Sacara dives). Based on the statistics of surveys, areas of host long-life trees for lac breeding in the district are 1.000ha. However, only 300ha managed by Song Ma Committee are available for use. Others need more improvement.
Based on the analysis of economic development advantages and disadvantages of the district, Thanh Hoa VUSTA and the local administrators have realized that lac breeding is a potential direction of development in mountainous districts where the climate is good for lac breeding which was common centuries ago. The project aims at:
- Recovering and developing lac breeding in Muong Lat through building sample models of technology to improve the productivity of lac resin as well as the capacity to market the products, increasing income for local community of ethnic minorities.
Expected activities of the project:
a) Building 4 sample models of lac breeding technology including:
- A model of planting rice inserting Thieu bean to breed lac
- A model of breeding lac in host trees which are planted in different places
- A model of breeding lac in host trees which are planted in one place
- A model to keep breeds of lac
b) Providing technical training for lac producers and local communicators
c) Making materials on breeding techniques for producers and technique officers
d) Building capacity on marketing and product selling for producers
- A survey report on the situation of forests and planting lands of communes, land possession rights, quantity, situation of using host trees, lac breeding experiences, households who are willing to take part in, advantages and disadvantages.
- PRA reports of selected villages, minutes, list and information of selected households, lac breeding plan of villages, communes, the villages’ maps of lands for lac development.
- 10 host trees (Thieu bean) and 7 long-life trees which were bred in 2007 have developed well, providing enough breeds for the whole commune.
- The breeding models have met the expected results. The total areas for 3 years is 103 ha
- Participating households have applied techniques to breed lac. 200 people have been trained the techniques to breed lac.
- 10 village and commune officers are qualified in lac breeding
- 7 village, commune officers have visited Thailand to learn about production, processing and marketing.
- 03 documents have printed for sub-trainers, technique trainers and producers.