Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Vietnam farmers planting in the dark as heatwave looms

HANOI (AFP) – It’s 3am and pitch black when rice farmer Tran Thi Lan heads into water-logged fields on the outskirts of Hanoi to begin planting, desperate to finish before the day’s brutal heat arrives.

Planting in the dark has become a saviour for countless farmers in north and central Vietnam during increasingly hot summers as South and Southeast Asian nations battle record-high temperatures this year.

“It’s so hard to plant the rice when the strong sun is directly on my back and the warm water in the field splashes my face,” Lan, 47, told AFP.

Lan had managed a few days of daytime planting during a brief respite from the heat.

But she switched to night work as another heatwave descended on northern Vietnam in early July, with forecasters predicting a long stretch where daily temperatures would exceed 37 degrees Celsius.

“With not enough light, the planting might not be on a straight line,” Lan acknowledged, as she quickly buried some roots into a patch of paddy illuminated by her head lamp.

Like Lan, 62-year-old farmer Nguyen Hung Phuong will now work from 4pm to 9pm and again from 3am to 9am.

“With extremely high temperatures, it’s very uncomfortable and exhausting to work during daytime, although of course I can see more clearly,” Phuong said.

Working at night made him “more productive and less distracted”, he said.

Night planting began a few years ago at Nguyen Thi Hanh’s farm.

“Our parents did not have head lamps. The weather was also not as hot,” 56-year-old Hanh said.

Night planting has its advantages for the rice, which Hahn said is sensitive to extremes in temperature.

“It’s in fact much better because the water is cooler, and more suitable for the young plant,” Hanh said.

Farmers planting rice on a paddy field at night in Hanoi. PHOTO: AFP