In the main season, every day the areca breaker can harvest a few quintals to a ton of fruit, earning 50-130$. Although the salary is high, the profession of cracking the betel nut makes everyone frown and sweat because of the constant danger.
“Walk” on the tree trunk, lose the top of the areca tree
Famous as the “capital of pineapples” – Tac Cau (Chau Thanh district, Kien Giang) is also a rich land with immense areca fields. This is a raw material area that provides a large output of areca both at home and abroad.
Also tall and straight like coconut, or jaggery, but the areca body is much smaller and slimmer. To harvest the areca chambers hanging from the tops of the trees, the areca cleavers must have their own skills. Some people call them “spider-man” because they climb all day, hanging loosely on the treetops, others liken them to “circus artists walking on areca trunks”.
To learn about that special profession, PV Dan Tri followed the seniors of areca breaker in Binh An commune, Chau Thanh district, Kien Giang province to enjoy their day in the air.
At 6am, after a night of heavy rain and thunderstorms, it was shady and the road was not completely dry, but Mr. Tai Minh Toi (41 years old) was present at the areca garden, starting work as usual. He said, today will be more difficult to climb than usual because the trunk is still wet due to the rain.
Mr. Toi was naked, wearing only a pair of long pants, wrapped around his belly with duct tape, and wearing canvas shoes on his feet. An indispensable item of “Spider-Man” is a hat behind the strap with a Thai knife attached. After taking a quick look at the number of areca trees that need to be harvested, Mr. Toi put on the betel nut (a rope braided into a ring) on his feet, then jumped on the tree trunk, quickly climbing up the areca trunk tens of meters high.
Thanks to the rope as a fulcrum, the male “circus actor” created the strength to jump one step on the vertical body. In a moment, he climbed to the top nearly 20m high, took a knife from his hat, cut 3 areca chambers, and then dropped his body to the tree, landing lightly. The whole mining process takes just over a minute.
To be so proficient, the U50 worker had to practice climbing areca many times, experiencing many incidents such as slipping, falling…
Asked about the job of breaking areca nut, Mr. Toi said that before he worked in a state agency, then he saw many people in the neighborhood earning a lot of money, so he also practiced doing it. Not long after that, he decided to quit his job as a civil servant, following the profession until now.
“At first, I learned to climb low trees to get used to it before I dared to climb higher trees. What kind of job do I get used to? Compared to breaking coconuts or jaggery, I still find the areca tree easier to climb. The areca trees are from 7 years old and up. Going up is the easiest to climb because it has a rough shell, the young areca is often slippery, and it is difficult to hold on,” Mr. Toi said.
“Eat rice on the ground, collect millions from above”
There are two ways to harvest areca nuts, with areca trees laden with chambers, workers will climb directly and harvest alone, without assistance. As for the areca trees, the people who break the areca tree will work in groups, a person who climbs on the tree uses a hook to poke the areca chamber to fall, and at the bottom, there is a person who uses a cloth to collect it, called “swallowing”.
Each exploitation method has difficulties and requires different skills, but to be called a “circus actor”, the first method is more suitable.
Huynh Phuoc Lien, who has worked in the industry for more than a decade, revealed that in addition to skillfully “climbing up and down”, the areca breakers can also move from one tree to another by passing… tops, no need to use lifelines, ladders… They flip from one to the other, just like Spider-Man.
“With the areca tree stumps located close to each other, the canopy is not too far away, the person who breaks the areca tree can swing from tree to tree like a monkey passing branches. This way saves energy, because he doesn’t have to fall down and climb up again. But not everyone can do it because if you accidentally grab the leaf, you will fall right back into the pond,” added Mr. Lien.
Living with the profession of “eating food on the ground, doing things in the sky” is not easy. On the top of the towering areca tree, tilted due to the wind, because of the weight of the people hanging on, there are many areca breakers “for a job, a career”.
Even Mr. Lien has had many accidents. He said: “Remember once breaking areca nut on the full moon day, because I was too greedy, I tied many betel nut chambers around my body, passing them from tree to tree. That day, when it was windy, I couldn’t hold on firmly, so I slipped and fell over. into the ditch. Fortunately, that time only got scratched. Since then, every time I climb, I only dare to take 3-4 chambers back.”
If you don’t slip and fall, you will sometimes hit the ground, your clothes will be torn, your skin will be bruised and scratched from rubbing when you slide on the areca body.
When asked about profits, Mr. Lien was honest: “Most people don’t come to the profession of climbing areca because they are interested. It’s just because this profession has a high income that we have to do it.”
Pointing to Mr. Toi, who is cracking a betel nut in the opposite garden, Mr. Lien said: “Here, Mr. Toi is the one who can crack the betel nut the best and earns the most money. Normally he earns 500,000 VND, but when he is in the palm tree, he makes the most money. collecting up to 3 million dong/day is common because he works alone, so he can eat as much as he can. I usually go to break betel nuts in groups. Each kilogram of areca harvested is paid 3,000 dongs, and can be broken. 1 ton will “eat” 3 million”.
Keyword: Heartbroken, frowning at “Spider-Man” running on a body tree Arecaceae