Tran Huu Thang, 43, of Dong Nai Province, has won the International Pepper Community's 2012 prize for best farmer
The International Pepper Community has granted the 2012 Best Pepper Farmer Award to Tran Huu Thang of Vietnam.
Thang, 43, of Dong Nai Province's Xuan Loc District, is also chairman of the union for high-productivity pepper clubs in the district's Xuan Tho Commune.
For seven years since 2006 he has been the best farmer in Dong Nai with his pepper farm having the highest yield in the province.
The highest productivity on his farm has been 11 tons per hectare.
One technique that Thang swears by is spraying phosphorus directly on the pepper plant's stem to make it bloom.
His family moved south from the northern province of Hung Yen in 1984, causing him to drop out of high school.
"We had to work hard to grow custard apple and corn at the beginning. We gradually bought 3,000 square meters of land to plant pepper and cassava," he says.
"When we ran out of money because of difficulty in selling cassava, we had to eat cassava instead of rice and feed the babies cassava soup instead of milk."
After that he tried planting pepper in three separate areas using different methods before adopting the best one.
His wife Ta Thi Dieu says: "Sometimes we had to wake up at 2 a.m. to water the pepper.
"Gradually, pepper prices increased and we were able to buy more land."
In 2006 Thang was among the first to benefit from a project launched by the Xuan Loc District agriculture development agency to plant pepper using new techniques like supplying water and fertilizer through pipes.
"Now I own three hectares of pepper and four hectares of rubber trees and earn more than VND1.8 billion (US$86,100) annually," he said.
He shares his expertise with local farmers as well as pepper farmers in the Central Highlands who call him up.
Nguyen Minh Nhat, deputy chief of the district Party unit, said Thang has brought fame to Xuan Loc pepper farmers and helped eliminate poverty in the mountainous area.
The International Pepper Community is an intergovernmental organization of pepper producing countries -- Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam are full members while Papua New Guinea is an associate member.
The IPC awards were instituted in 2011 to honor the best pepper farmers, exporters, and manufacturers and encourage them to produce quality pepper.
Another Vietnamese, Nguyen Van Queo, claimed the award in 2011.