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Meet a prestigious aloeswood maker in central Vietnam

From experience and eagerness to do business, a man in a central Vietnamese province has found out ‘a formula’ to create aloeswood, a kind of dark fragrant resin formed inside trees, worth the same as gold.

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He is Hoang Van Truong, 52, in Tien Canh Commune of Tien Phuoc District, Quang Nam Province.

Without money or an academic certificate, Truong is now a partner and co-owner of a farm, a joint venture between Chinese and Laotian firms, thanks to the self-taught knowledge and experience he has contributed to the company.

Truong is also the chief technician at the Van Danh joint venture farm, which specializes in cultivating ‘dó bầu’ (Aquilaria trees) – a large evergreen native of Southeast Asia – to create aloeswood, or ‘kỳ nam’ or ‘trầm hương’ in Vietnamese.

Aloeswood is often formed inside the trunk of Aquilaria trees, especially around injuries on the trunk in combination with natural chemicals brought in by insects in the wild.

In the past, men often gathered in groups to cut their way into deep forests to hunt aloeswood as a fortune in the hope of changing their lives. These hunts cost blood and lives.

A man in the southern Vietnamese province of Dong Nai can also create aloeswood thanks to green ants which often injure Aquilaria trees and discharge fluids from their bodies. He is Truong Thanh Khoan, 62, residing in Phu Son Commune of Tan Phu District.

The ants often excrete the fluid when they hear a sudden noise or are surprised.

With that fluid pumped into the tree trunk, agarwood is formed, producing a dark, aromatic resin in response to the attack.

The resin is valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus is used for incense and perfumes.

Truong, however, does not reveal his formula to create aloeswood.

Thanks to his 25 years of working with aloeswood, Truong has taken over a 15,000 hectare farm with 1.5 million Aquilaria trees owned by the Van Danh farm in Vientiane, Laos.

In addition, he is now the owner of a factory to distill fragrance from aloeswood in his hometown and produces incense from aloeswood waste.

Truong said three Chinese men from the Union Resource & Engineering Company came to his hometown to ask for his cooperation in 2012.

After trying with hundreds of Aquilaria trees, the Chinese men agreed to sign a contract with Truong to work for Van Danh in Laos with his knowledge as his only asset to contribute to the joint venture, worth five percent of it.

Truong is assigned to recruit workers in his hometown for Van Danh and train them to take care of the farm.

So far, he has helped create jobs for 70 men in Quang Nam at the joint venture, each earning a monthly salary of VND6 – 7.5 million (US$276 – 345).

Besides, Truong has helped many owners of Aquilaria tree farms in the central Vietnamese provinces of Thua Thien Hue, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Ha Tinh, and Nghe An to create aloeswood.