A Vietnamese village without using money

Published: 25/02/2013 11:07

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In an ethnic minority Co Tu village in the central province of Quang Nam, locals exchange goods directly without using money – rendering the medium most of the world has for centuries seen as indispensable, nearly useless.

Tongol Yeng, 55, the patriarch of A Tu Village, which is naturally isolated from the outside world due to its surrounding forests and mountains and limited infrastructure, said while in the deltas people can by many things with money, locals “do not know what to do with money.”

He said they grow enough rice, cassava, corn and other crops, as well as raise chickens, pigs and other livestock, to meet local demand.

If local people need anything, from a knife to some salt, they can barter with cassava or corn in order to obtain it, he added.


“What’s money for? We live and grow up here without money.”

Yeng’s claim was echoed by other locals’ headshaking when asked if they had money. They said they also exchange produce for monosodium glutamate, soap and other necessities.

Tongol Huong, 30, a rice farmer, said with a bottle of bee honey or ginseng roots gathered in the forest he can get enough rice and salt to last him until his next rice harvest.

“Sometimes, when we run out of salt, I give them a dog for it,” he said.

According to Poloong Thi Nhat, 21, who runs a grocery store in the village, the main commodity here is salt, which people trade cassava and corn for every day.

Men often trade ginseng and honey for sweets, fish and rice wine, she said, adding that she then exchanges the items at a store in the center of Ch’om Commune for more goods to trade at her village.

Such barter systems are not restricted to A Tu Village.

Yeng said when he was young he often went to Ka Don Village in Sekong Province, Laos, which can be reached within an hour by foot, to exchange agates for tut, a kind of brocade.

During the visits, he has made friends with many people in the Lao village, which allows him to exchange his farm produce for pigs, chickens and even cows when rice crops are poor.

“Whenever we lack something, we go to their village and make an exchange, instead of selling. We don’t see the point in taking money for it,” he said.

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