BETEL LEAF VILLAGE
Located in a small village of Hậu Giang province, a betel leaf village has been present there for about 100 years and betel leaf is the main income of the locals there.
According to the recallings of the locals, they are not sure when exactly their ancestors had started growing the betel leaf in the village, but it must be around 100 years ago. They say that at first some people brought some vines of betel back to the village so that they could grow and eat them or sometimes sell them away. Gradually, they found this kind of betel so good with beautiful yellowish leaves (unlike other betel leaves which have the green color when they’re ready for harvest) and it was quite easy to grow them, so many people in the village followed suit. Day in day out, from 10 to 20 and then to 100 and finally a village of 200 families are doing exactly the same thing which is co-existing with the betel vines and they make themselves the most famous betel leaf village of the land of Hậu Giang. From upon that time until now, the family job has been passed through 3 generations and it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna stop. The locals tell us that the most glorious and wealthiest time of the village must have been around the late 70s and 80s of the previous century since at that time, there was a man in the village who usually commuted from Vietnam to Cambodia and brought the betel leaves of the village to sell them to the Cambodians. And “exporting betel leaves” to Cambodia financially helped improve the lives of the villagers dramatically, especially since the village just recovered from the destruction of the raging war.
We are informed that the income from selling betel leaves are much higher and more stable than growing rice which is the main income of farmers in Hậu Giang. The farmers in the village collect and sell betel leaves everyday in wholesale, and if you want to buy it in retail price, it will be 1 dollar for every 40 leaves. The kids in the village can also earn money by picking the leaves that are ready to harvest. In this village, everyone knows the betel so well, even the kids and that’s why betel leaf is considered as an indispensable part of their culture.
Even though not many people in Vietnam maintain the custom of eating betel leaves with betel nut and peanut like the old Vietnamese of the last centuries, betel leaves still play a crucial role in the culture of every Vietnamese. Betel leaf and betel nut are irreplaceable during the important occasions such as wedding, birth-giving or bring offerings to pagodas. Therefore, betel leaves will be always present as long as the Vietnamese still exist.