Visitors to the mountainous A Luoi district in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue are immediately struck by the visible changes in all aspects of life across the district.

Once bearing the brunt of the large-scale defoliation programme during operation Ranch Hand by the Unites States from the 1961-1971, A Luoi, where the population comprises mostly of ethnic minority groups, has experienced marked changes in infrastructure and quality of life.

From one of districts with the highest poverty and illiteracy rates in Thua Thien-Hue, A Luoi now has kindergartens and schools and many ethnic minority youth have received higher education degrees.

Ke Suu, the first ethnic minority member to get a PhD degree, has been the pride of the ethnic minority community in the district.

Twelve ethnic minority people are serving as vice chairmen of communal People’s Committees.

Infrastructure in the district has improved greatly over the past 40 years, allowing residents in A Luoi to travel to the city of Hue in just two hours on a new 70-km road, as opposed to the previous two-day travel over 220 kilometres. The newly-constructed Ho Chi Minh Road also runs though the district’s main town.

Hero of the people’s armed forces Ho Duc Vai said that hundreds of kilometres of concrete and asphalt roads leading to hamlets have facilitated market visits and the daily lives of local people.

The rice yield in Sal Pilung valley in A Luoi’s A Roang mountainous commune has considerably increased after 26 irrigation projects were carried out and the rice production area was expanded, helping the Ta Oi ethnic minority group gain an average of around 400 kilograms of rice per month.

Members of the Ta Oi group were also instructed on how to use the land surrounding their homes to raise livestock and grow fruit trees.

Huong Lam commune, one of three poorest communes in Thua Thien-Hue, has benefited from the Government’s Programme 135 supporting the country’s poorest communes.

The locality has reduced its poverty rate to 9 percent thanks to a shift in farming methods to include the application of science and technology, applying the fruit-fish-livestock model and planting forests.

Hong Ha, another extremely disadvantaged commune, is home to five ethnic groups of Ka Tu, Pa Co, Ta Oi, Pa Hy and Kinh who together have made efforts to plant 1,070 hectares of buffer forest, the largest reforestation effort among communes in A Luoi.

Hong Ha has been developing its farming economy as well, planting rubber trees, fruits, pepper plants. Increased incomes from these initiatives can be seen as more than half of households now have TV sets.

Meanwhile, ethnic minority community members in Nham commune are employed as workers in coffee plantations, and a number of households have planted their own coffee farms.

The district also completed the construction of 2,400 houses to replace ramshackle huts.

A Luoi is expected to become a bustling economic hub in the western region of Thua Thien-Hue as a number of major projects are implemented in the region, including the construction of the A Dot and Hong Van border economic zones and the upgrades and expansions of the national road No 49 and provincial road No 74 and 71 connecting A Luoi with Nam Dong and Phong Dien districts.

Construction of the A Luoi and A Lin hydroelectric plants with a combined capacity of 250 megawatts is also under way.

Currently, 11 of 20 A Luoi communes have completed at least 10 out of the 19 criteria for new-style rural communes.

The district aims to achieve a 12 percent economic growth to bring the income per capita to 18 million VND (840 USD) in 2015 and reduce the impoverished household rate to below 10 percent.-VNA