Australia’s strategic approach to aid in Vietnam targets three core areas: human resource development, economic integration and environmental sustainability. ACIAR’s Vietnam strategy is directly in line with the core area on environmental sustainability, but also encompasses the core component of human resource development. Vietnam’s significant economic growth in agriculture (and the rest of the economy) is due to market competitiveness and demand for exports. The benefits of the significant economic growth to date have primarily influenced the urban areas of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and adjacent regions, but rural areas are lagging. Vietnam will continue to have a comparatively high percentage of rural population over the next decade or two, and issues of rural poverty and structural adjustment remain at the top of the policy agenda. Productivity on either a land or labour basis is still very low. The small scale of production on individual farms, the fragmented land holdings and increases in input costs are significant problems, but also conceal huge potential. Ethnic minority groups and those in remote regions are particularly affected, and the Vietnamese Government is providing greater focus on programs to assist these groups. ACIAR’s program is designed to contribute in some of these major areas, where Australian expertise has the ability to deliver benefits. ACIAR’s program in Vietnam supports technical and agribusiness research to enhance smallholder incomes from selected areas of high-value agriculture, aquaculture and forestry. In recent years, the program has focused on three geographic regions where poverty has persisted, and where there are threats to sustaining the agricultural natural resource base. Plantation forestry research is also conducted in regions where farmers are actively involved in growing acacia and eucalypt plantations. The following are geographic regions where Australian agricultural technical skills have an ability to assist in development:
- Mekong Delta, which is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and change. A program focusing on climate-change adaptation and mitigation in rice systems in this region has been developed. The emphasis of interventions at the farm scale complements catchment-level and whole-of-(Mekong)-basin programs on water and climate change supported by AusAID and other donors.
- South-central coast, where research to underpin profitable but sustainable crop cultivation and livestock production systems in challenging environments (poor, sandy soils under water-limiting conditions), and research on the development of sustainable mariculture systems for high-value species, is ongoing.
- North-western highlands, where opportunities exist for selected horticultural products (high-value temperate fruits and vegetables), sustainable production of cash crops (maize), and livestock and forestry products. Parallel research will focus on improving supply chains from smallholder farmers to more-valuable markets
- Securing rice-based farming systems in the Mekong Delta through resilience to the negative impacts of climate change (provincial focus: Bac Lieu, An Giang)
- Development of rice germplasm and agronomic approaches for rice-based farming systems to adapt to the impacts of inundation, salinisation and drought
- Capacity building in greenhouse gas measurement and nutrient input, and agronomic strategies for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions
- Risk assessment of climate change to rice production in the Mekong Delta region, and analysis of technical and policy approaches to reduce emissions from rice-based systems
- Optimising resource management for profitable and sustainable agricultural production in south-central coastal Vietnam (provincial focus: Ninh Thuan, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh)
- Analysis of markets and supply chains to identify critical points for selected commodities, to focus technical intervention for delivery of market impact
- Development of sustainable cropping systems and agronomic practices that target available markets
- Sustainable irrigation practices that make greatest use of on-farm water resources and protect groundwater resources from salinisation
- Poverty reduction through market engagement for smallholder farmers in the northern and north-western highlands (provincial focus: Son La, Dien Bien, Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Lao Cai)
- Better integration of smallholder farmers into profitable markets for high-value crops and agroforestry through market and supply-chain analysis, with a focus on fruit and vegetables
- Improved natural resources management on sloping lands through improving crop, nutrient and land management
- Improved management and marketing systems for smallholder ruminants and pigs, and improved feed availability and integration of appropriate forage varieties into the farming system
- Enhanced capacity of local service providers (both public and private sector) through alternative methods of delivery
- Development of high-value aquaculture industries (regional focus: Mekong Delta (Can Tho, Bac Lieu), central coast (Khanh Hoa), north-eastern Vietnam (Hai Phong, Quang Ninh))
- Introduction of cost-effective and environmentally friendly aquaculture feeds
- Development of profitable and environmentally responsible grow-out technologies for marine cage culture and pond culture of lobsters, and hatchery production and grow-out of molluscs
- Transfer of existing knowledge from ACIAR aquaculture projects to producers, government extension agencies and universities
- Advancement towards higher value plantation forestry products (regional focus: northern Vietnam (Phu Tho, Ha Noi), central Vietnam (Quang Tri), southern Vietnam (Bin Duong))
- Development of sustainable high-value technologies for fast-growing forest plantations suitable for smallholders, particularly on degraded soils
- Improvement of plantation wood-processing efficiency, especially for small eucalypts and acacias, through development of engineered veneer products.