Tran Minh Tuan produces charcoal for a living, earning around VND10 million ($429) a month to support his family and educate his kids.
They work inside a Ham Duc Commune forest in central Binh Thuan Province off the road leading to the proposed Phan Thiet Airport.Every early morning, Tuan and his 3 friends use hoe and shovel to quickly shovel the top layer of soil in the kiln to get hot coal below, which is collected manually in aluminum pots.
Trần Minh Tuấn collects charcoal from the kiln.VnExpress / Viet Quoc's photo.
Face covered in soot and pointing to a pile of charcoal over a meter high, Tuan says they wake up at 3 a.NS.work.“This is the second furnace.I had to get here early to take advantage of the cool weather.It will be unbearably hot at noon."
Three kilns were built and lit next to each other 10 days ago.From time to time, the wind rises and sets the embers on fire.
Do Van Thanh, 37, a hired worker, says they make the charcoal manually.In the past, they used to burn forest wood, but now use acacia and eucalyptus.
The local sandy soil is suitable for growing both, allowing thousands of acacia and eucalyptus forests to grow over the past 20 years.Mature plants are harvested with their owners taking only the stem.Tuan's group often collects discarded branches to produce charcoal.
Acacia and eucalyptus wood from local plantations is readied for burning.VnExpress / Viet Quoc's photo.
The group hires a tractor to carry the wood to a clearing.One hole 2.People dug 2 m deep to make a kiln.The hole widens as it goes down.
"If you make a rectangular furnace, it will take too much wood," explained Mr. Thanh.“Wood burns more slowly at the bottom if it is wider."
After digging the pit, they chop and place the wood into neat blocks and cover it with a 25 cm thick layer of dry cajuput leaves.Then they filled the pit with soil.When the furnace was done, they dug holes in the front and back for ventilation.
After lighting the fire, Tuan uses a bunch of leaves to fan it for 15 minutes.Tuan said the direction of the holes depends on the season."This is based on experience gained over generations.The wind makes the wood burn evenly."
In around 10 days the wood slowly transforms into charcoal.
A kiln produces around 600 kilograms of charcoal.VnExpress / Viet Quoc's photo.
On average, a kiln produces 600 kg of charcoal.In more than a month, the four people together made more than 10 batches with a total weight of 6,000 kg.
Charcoal now costs VND7,000 ($0.3) per kilograNS.Thus, they earn 40 million dong ($1,720) a month, divided equally among four people.
"Producing charcoal is very demanding, but the income is enough to support our families and children's education," Tuan says.
In his neighborhood, over a dozen people utilize the same traditional coal-making method."The word 'lam coal' (miserable) is a pun on the word 'coal', referring to the hardships of coal production," Mr. Thanh, carrying heavy bags of coal and waiting for the buyer, said.
"The work is difficult but I am used to it.I will continue to produce charcoal until I am old."
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