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How the Harvest of Bang Grass Supports a Community

December 17, 2023
4 Min Read
Written by 
A man navigates his small boat through bang grass in Vietnam

Once the night sky changes color and the birds chirping mark the crack of dawn, My Hanh Bac commune, located in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, comes to life. An area famous for its bang grass, also known as Lepironia. 

As I rode along a small, rough backroad in search of locals harvesting this type of grass, I noticed locals on boats heading out into the fields. Equipped with only a sickle, they navigate their small sampan boats through the waterlogged fields to find grass that is ready for harvest.

A man navigates his boat loaded with Bang grass through a swamp in Vietnam

My curiosity led me to a small waterway where I met Mr. Giau (45 years old), a local of My Hanh Bac, and his wife. They are one of many households that make a living from the grass grown in this area.

A man navigates his boat loaded with Bang grass through a swamp in Vietnam

I was greeted by his friendly smile as he happily offered to show me the beauty of his work. With broken English, he gestured to me to hop in his boat. With my feet covered in swamp mud, I clambered into the small vessel. Meanwhile, Mr. Giau was having a blast. Dressed in the proper attire, he seemed practically unaffected by the swamp-like nature of the field. He hopped in the boat with great ease and manoeuvred us just as easily through the vegetation.

A man navigates his boat loaded with Bang grass through a swamp in Vietnam

After a short boat ride, Mr. Giau’s wife appeared in the distance, with a pile of bang grass bundles next to her, each weighing roughly 3 kilograms. Harvesting Bang grass is hard work, and a proper task division is essential.

While Mr. Giau transports the bundles of grass from the fields to the shore, his wife stays behind to cut and sort the next batch.

People harvest Bang grass in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

First, she looks for grass that is roughly a meter tall, then she reaches for her sickle and cuts the grass at the base, close to the root. To make sure the grass can grow back, the cutting is all done by hand, as using a machine would damage the stem. It takes roughly half a year for the grass to grow back for the next harvest.

A woman ties bang grass into bundles in Vietnam

After cutting, she separates the yellow stems from the healthy ones. Lastly, the grass is tied into bundles and stacked on top of each other.

Birds-eye view of a woman sorting out bang grass in Vietnam

Meanwhile, Mr. Giau returned with an empty boat, ready to collect the next batch of grass. After loading the bundles in the boat, he headed out again. Only this time, I hopped in as well. Soon we arrived at the shore and Mr. Giau unloaded multiple bundles at once, seemingly unmoved by the weight of the grass. He exuded a great sense of pride in what he does, which was delightful to witness.

A man navigates his boat loaded with Bang grass through a swamp in Vietnam

When all is done, the bundles are left at the side of the road, ready for a truck to pick them up. Traders come to buy the grass at the end of the morning, hence the early harvest. The grass is sold for 10,000 to 15,000 VND per bundle. On average, a household can cut up to 150 bundles a day. 

My Hanh Bac, with its flooded fields and acidic soil, is the ideal place to grow Lepironia. The grass grown here is mainly used to produce organic straws. To make these, the grass only needs to be washed and dried without any further processing. Making it the ideal resource for organic disposable straws and a great alternative to single-use plastic products.

A man carries a bundle of bang grass in Vietnam

The recent demand for organic straws has been a blessing, not only for the local people but for wildlife alike. The use of bang grass for straws prevents people from cultivating their land for rice instead. This contributes greatly to the balance of the ecosystem, as the flooded fields covered in grass provide a home for numerous kinds of birds, insects, and fishes.

Additionally, compared to growing rice, bang grass provides a steady stream of income year-round, as the grass does not have to be harvested all at once. The fact that the grass grows back and does not have to be replanted is also a great benefit of the production of bang grass. 

A man is seen walking in the water while loading his boat with bang grass.

As long as there is a demand for organic straws, the community of My Hanh Bac will continue to strive and find a way to sustain their families while simultaneously contributing to a balanced ecosystem in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.


A traveller who enjoys photographing colorful local markets and mountain kids.

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