(VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The northern province of Nam Dinh is famed for its salt-producing villages in the Hai Hau, Giao Thuy and Nghia Hung districts.
Before 2000, the province had more than 1,000 ha of salt fields, tilled by nearly 700 farmers. The salt-field area has now reduced to 500ha due to falling salt prices.
Hai Ly Commune in Hai Hau District has a long history of making salt and had 90ha of salt fields 10 years ago, when salt-making was lucrative. Yet, in the past few years, the area of salt fields has fallen to 20ha as farmers have quit the tough, low-paid work.
Many of them are now planting vegetables and raising fish. Now, only 200 people, mainly women, old men or men too weak to fish offshore, work on the salt fields.
According to the locals, there is enough bright sunlight to work in the salt fields for only about five months a year. The work depends much on the weather, while the salt price often fluctuates, leading to unstable lives for salt-makers.
The salt-making process includes a few steps, which the farmers have to perform under the blazing sun.
First, they submerge sand under seawater, then they dry the sand in a clay yard.
When the sand dries, it will form a small amount of salt.
Then, the farmers use seawater to rinse that sand to get a saltier solution.
They dry the solution once more and use salt water to rinse the dried salt to get even more salty water and let it dry on the cement yard.
After nearly 10 hours, the seawater evaporates to leave pure salt on the cement yard. The farmers then can harvest the salt, which is ready to be used