Country Context

Strong economic growth and reforms over the past two decades have led to Vietnam’s emergence as a lower–middle-income country. However, the benefits of the growth to date have primarily influenced the urban areas of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and adjacent regions, and rural areas are lagging. More than 33 million people still live in poverty, mostly in rural and remote communities with few services. Australia is helping Vietnam overcome poverty and gain sustainable development for regional prosperity and security.

The Comprehensive Partnership between Australia and Vietnam guides the direction of Australian engagement. Australia’s strategic approach to aid is tightly focused, targeting three core areas to assist Vietnam’s ambition of becoming an industrialised country by 2020: human resource development, economic integration and environmental sustainability. ACIAR’s strategies link to environmental sustainability and the development of human resources, both for smallholders as beneficiaries of projects and for scientists within projects.

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 landholdings and increases in input costs are significant problems, which 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, agribusiness and enabling policy 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:

  • 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 on intervention at the farm scale complements catchment-level and whole-of-Mekong-Basin programs on water and climate change supported by the Australian Government 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.

Linkages to the programs of Australian agencies and other donors working in these regions are regularly identified and supported. ACIAR’s projects are increasingly multidisciplinary, and there will be a particular focus on linking central research institutes with provincially based research and extension departments.