Livelihood on Rock

10:43:34 PM | 9/23/2015

Without enough arable land for farming, in the extremity of the northern tip of the country, planting crops on rock has become a traditional method of residents of four districts on the Dong Van Karst Plateau in Ha Giang province.
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is a karst plateau where arable soil is little and rare. Thus, to grow maize and other crops, local residents have creatively adapted to this extremity by carrying soil to fill rock holes or embanking rock to create small fields to grow food crops, mainly maize. Rock slates of different sizes are used to erect fences and embankments to prevent soil erosion, especially in rainy seasons. Exactly when this practice of cultivating food crops in rock holes began is not known.
Visiting the rock plateau in Ha Giang, apart from colourful upland markets, the image of maize fields on rock and women painstakingly carrying soil baskets to their fields also inspiringly portray the local culture. These are manifestations of farming knowledge and techniques. Cultural values are displayed in the knowledge and technique of farming on rock fields. Farming on the rock plateau though, each ethnic group has its own different agricultural practices and beliefs. Spiritual rites like worshipping for good crop, praying for rain or enjoying new rice contain local cultural identities. Thus, it can be said that farming-on-rock culture or farming-on-rock knowledge is worth exploring and studying. Indigenous people even create folklore epics portraying their life when they do farming.
For the people here, farming-on-rock knowledge is merely experience and methods passed down by their ancestors to earn a living, but it imperceptibly creates unique cultural values and behaviours within the living environment and natural conditions. Farming-on-rock knowledge is also an intangible cultural heritage of high community spirit, a representative symbol of minority ethnics in four districts on Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang province.
Thanh Nga