Humble, good-natured, reliable. These are the qualities I've encountered in the salt farmers - and Kiva microloan borrowers - I was able to visit this past week in Thanh Hoa province in Vietnam, hence my dubbing them "the salt of the earth." This phrase's ancient, biblical origins harken back to a time in which salt was considered synonymous with value, to the extent salt was sometimes used as currency. The phrase also connotes a preservation of societal values, as salt was widely used, and still is used today, as a preservative. This phrase evolved over time and into secular, modern culture to simply mean a person who is of high value because of their trustworthiness and overall good nature aka the salt farmers of Thanh Hoa!
This is Mai, a Kiva loan recipient and salt farmer, who said that despite the fluctuation in her income - since salt farming is largely dependent on the weather - she was still able to double her income during ideal salt farming weather months (March through June) as a result of receiving her Kiva loan for better salt farming tools.
To make the salt, salt water from a small reservoir near Mai's plot of land is placed into the planes. It takes about 5-10 days, depending on the heat, for the water to evaporate and for the salt to crystallize. Here is what Mai does once the salt is ready to be removed from the planes (demonstrated by another local salt farmer):
Once the salt is produced, she then drives on her motorbike to sell the salt to provinces that do not have salt. Mai lives in a rural village in Thanh Hoa that is near the sea. Mai and her close friends all make salt or harvest scallops that they then sell.
Mai's Kiva loan has helped to alleviate her worries about her three young children and her weak, elderly mother. She feels more optimistic about her ability to afford education for her children and to support her mother, who lives with Mai. Mai plans to eventually own a larger home to best accommodate her children and her mother and she hopes her children excel in school.
It was such a pleasure to meet Mai and her salt farming friends aka the salt of the earth! I am so happy for them and their success (and greater future success) and will always remember them fondly!