In his late sixties, Vu Van Cong still looks tough. His sunburned skin, well-built body and charismatic character make him appear more like an Italian don in a Mario Puzo novel than a committed communist. Actually, he is as powerful as a real don: not only does he lead a cooperative of 318 households, he’s also the head of the local credit fund which provides financial services to all the farmers in his local commune. And he excels in both.
Dong Phat, his cooperative, is admired across the province of Lam Dong in the Central highlands of Vietnam as a new model for agricultural development. In a country where farmers are the poorest, the cooperative has managed to make its farmers some of the most prosperous in the district.