This project aimed to improve the performance of smallholder farming systems through agroforestry. It focused on Son La, Yen Bai and Dien Bien, three provinces in the northwest. It sought to increase the productivity of associated crop and livestock systems, leading to more diverse and sustainable production systems and better income from tree products.
About 3.4 million people (4% of Vietnam’s population) live in the five north-western provinces in culturally diverse communities made up of 30 ethnic groups. Forests occupy more than half of the area, and agriculture is characterised by shifting cultivation. The rapid expansion of agriculture and ongoing widespread shifting cultivation has degraded agro-ecosystems and fragmented forests, which threatens environmental sustainability and food security. Agroforestry can secure the livelihoods of rural households while curbing land degradation and deforestation.
In response to efforts both from government and ACIAR to support the region, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Vietnam joined forces with national partners to implement a comprehensive agroforestry research program.
The specific objectives and activities were to:
develop best-practice agroforestry systems for three agro-ecological zones;
improve the availability of high-quality germplasm to expand agroforestry systems;
enhance market access for, and opportunities for adding value to, agroforestry products; and
improve extension methods and policy dialogues for successful dissemination of agroforestry systems.
This report presents progress of project implementation since approval in November 2011 up to March 2012.
Since the approval of the project through to the inception workshop which was held in March, new information on local contexts and preferences has led to a change in trials. Local contexts, funding as well as scientific standards for conducting on-farm research were important considerations in the choice of AF trials. The project team facilitated the design of on-farm agroforestry (AF) trials by partners, in an iterative manner. The research designs were subjected to critical reviews by ICRAF and CSIRO scientists as well as national experts, and several iterations were made of the research protocols, requiring significant time and energy for knowledge negotiation amongst stakeholders. Discussion of the scalability of results led to further consolidation and refinement of both the suite of trials to be conducted and the design of each trial. In summary, two types of trials were distinguished as follows.
A network of tree species trials on contours in maize fields aimed at exploring options for reducing soil erosion and improving profitability of degrading maize production systems that are the predominant land use in the project area. Fruit trees were initially prioritized with potential for fodder and timber species to be included as the project unfolds.
Demonstrations of several more complex agroforestry practices, reflecting local interest amongst partners in the development of particular species assemblages with niche market potential.
In Objective 1 of the approved project document, six key agroforestry systems consisting of 6 main tree species in combination with about 9 other species, one (1) fodder grass, and six (6) soil erosion trials, were targeted with 20 replicates/villages in a total of 27 trials. Of these, we still proposed six (6) agroforestry systems but with fewer components/species. The trials will be set-up with a total of 51 replications or farmer co-operators in nine (9) communes within six (6) districts of three (3) provinces namely, Son La, Dien Bien and Yen Bai—these give rise to a total of 204 treatment and control plots, as shown below.
Longan + Maize (3Treatments & Controls with 15 replicates in 3 provinces= 15 farmer co-operators and 45 research plots);
Son tra + Mulato II; Son tra + Ghile (5Treatments & Controls x 4 replicates x 3 provinces= 12 farmer co-operators and 60 research plots);
Son tra + Maize (3Treatments & Controls x 4 replicates x 1 province= 4 farmer co-operators and 12 research plots);
Shan tea + Mulato II; Shan tea + Ghile (5Treatments & Controls x 4 replicates x 3 provinces= 12 farmer co-operators and 60 research plots);
Macadamia + coffee + soybean; Coffee + soybean; Macadamia + soybean (3Treatments & Controls x 4 replicates x 2 provinces= 8 farmer co-operators and 24 research plots); and
Amomum under community forest canopy in three elevation gradients, in Son La (3 research plots)
In addition, nine (9) soil erosion measurements will be conducted in all longan + maize trials.
For Objective 2, one (1) on-station nursery for D. Indica and four smallholder tree and fodder grass nurseries are proposed plus a germplasm study for son tra. Altogether, 55 farmer co-operators from five ethnic groups in 19 villages within 11 communes in 6 districts of 3 provinces, will be involved in on-farm research management, data collection, analysis, training and knowledge sharing.
Of the proposed AF trials in Objective 1, four will be established this year. As of this report, the establishment of longan + maize and amomum under forest canopy are almost ready. This will be followed by the establishment of trials for shan tea + 2 fodder grasses in July 2012. The study on son-tra germplasm production begun in autumn of 2011; mother trees have been selected, scions collected and grafting procedures will follow soon. Preparations for the establishment of four smallholder nurseries are also underway.
Rapid market value chain (MVC) analysis for son tra has been conducted in late 2011, and will be followed by MVCs for longan in July 2012. Furthermore, preparations for the following major activities are underway: (1) Monitoring and Evaluation workshop planned for April 2012; (2) Farming Systems Diagnosis involving 51 farmer co-operators planned for April-May 2012; (3) Baseline survey planned for July 2012; (4) Training Needs Assessment in June-July 2012; (5) MVC analysis training in July 2012; and (6) establishing the remaining trials for the year.
The project’s management and operational scheme has been designed and operation is principally through the Coordination Committee and Technical Working Group. A variation to the project proposal will be done to reflect the significant changes in trials.
The activities and accomplishments presented in this report covered the period, April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013. During this period, significant variations to project activities have been made in response to complex issues and challenges encountered in the field. The revised activities and outputs were finalized and agreed upon, and reflected in the revised project document, by the ICRAF country representative and interim AFLI project manager, ACIAR-Vietnam country manager and ACIAR’s RPM, Mr. Tony Bartlett, in March 2013, after which, an official request for project variation to ACIAR was made.
Despite the project’s initial challenges, it has made significant progress towards achieving its objectives. This report highlights the outputs of each of the four objectives, which are summarized as follows.
Completed research designs for 10 agroforestry systems, of which three have been established earlier in the year, while field preparations have been initiated for the establishment of seven AF systems between April-July 2013
Completed farming systems diagnosis (FSD) and baseline survey
Set-up a functional M&E system
Collected 8,000 tree root stocks, produced 3,900 seedlings in 4 established smallholder nurseries and 1 on-station nursery, and documented 30 son tra mother trees
Evaluated macadamia clones, and completed the analysis of timber supply and demand and market exploration of walnut
Completed the market value chain analysis for son tra fruits and developed a marketing intervention plan
Identified new relevant research topics around gender, local ecological knowledge, mitigation potential, and landscape resilience
Trained 297 researchers, extension workers and farmers on various agroforestry-related topics, and initiated an agroforestry policy dialogue through a national workshop
Completed 9 technical reports as AFLI mini-products, of which two have been published as working papers; 1 Vietnamese journal article and a working paper published
Communications: AFLI brochure, website, video clip, 3 blog articles & 1 published feature article
Developed new partnerships with FAO-Climate Smart Agriculture and the CGIAR-Mekong Humidtropics
Recruited a Project Manager
In its nascent stage, AFLI’s capacity development and partnership building have been a force for good that not only increased the awareness of, and improved the knowledge and skills of research partners, extension workers and farmers on agroforestry research design and implementation as well its benefits, but also created new forms of partnerships and opportunities for scaling up. NOMAFSI’s agroforestry research proposal to the Vietnamese government, exemplified a training outcome that may lead to wider adoption of agroforestry in the northwest region, not to mention the prospects for scaling up through partnerships with FAO and the CGIAR Humidtropics programme. But coupled with some success are issues and challenges inundating other aspects of the project. The northwest region is inherently a difficult environment both in biophysical and socio-economic terms. The capacity of farmers to cope with both environmental and economic stressors combined with the sheer limitations of the institutions that support them, may continue to lend the AFLI project with inescapable challenges.
This report covers the period April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. It highlights progress towards project objectives and addresses some of the recommendations from the project mid-term review (MTR) conducted by ACIAR-RPM, Tony Bartlett on March 12-15, 2014.
The project has made significant progress in all components, which includes 11 establsihed agroforestry systems replicated in 48 trial plots across three provinces, 50 farmers testing new species in farmer-demonstration trials, 2 producer groups formed and linked to markets for Son tra fruits, 428 farmers and extension workers trained on agroforestry and seedling propagation techniques, 6 partners supported to participate the World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi, cost-benefits analyzed for 5 agroforestry systems, 3 published online blog articles, 3 conference posters, 2 published working paper and journal article, 2 manuscripts under review for a journal publication, and 2 management audits.
The status of agroforestry and nursery trials is highly variable due to locally-specific conditions on which, these are established. Efforts have been made to closely monitor the trials and to coordinate the partners to address issues in a timely manner; however, more work is needed by ICRAF and partners to ensure that the established trials are effectively managed. In response to the MTR recommendations, the trials will be assessed in terms of their utilization for rigorous scientific analysis and potential adoption by farmers.
On its second year, the project continues to face management challenges–our partners have limited time allocated to manage the trials and faced difficulties in complying the requirements of the trials, building rapport and enhancing farmer cooperation, and addressing issues in a responsive and timely manner. A natural limiting factor in the northwest region is the weather conditions—many field activities are highly dependent on the onset of rain, such as replacing damaged trees or planting grasses-this led to delays in implementing the recommended corrections to the trial.
The project audits revealed several issues that need to be addressed by partners to ensure effective implementation of activities through the end of the project. This has been recognized crucial in achieving the desired project impacts.
In summary, the second year of the AFLI project has been both challenging and encouraging. The challenge stems from the inherent complexity of the project, but it is also encouraging to see some farmers already getting interested in adopting agroforestry at this stage with additional support for planting materials. What we have learned so far is that, given the circumstances in the northwest region, smallholder farmers need the right mix of incentives to realize the potential of agroforestry-this issue will be explored further this year, and will be reported in the next annual report.
This report covers the period, April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. It highlights progress towards project objectives, as well as actions to address comments and recommendations from the mid-term review held on March 12-15, 2014.
The project has made significant progress in all components. Eleven established trials were evaluated based on their status in the field, quality of data collected and farmer interest. This resulted in 8 agroforestry trials evaluated as suitable for scientific analysis, 2 for demonstration, and 1 for termination. In total, 10 agroforestry systems are available both for scientific analysis and demonstration, through the end of the project. A tentative map of maize sloping lands in the northwest was also produced to spatially analyse the potential scaling up domains of trialled agroforestry systems.
Furthermore, six farmer demonstration trials (FDT) with 104 participating households, covering a total of 50 hectares were established with the aim to upscale the trialled agroforestry systems. Seven group nurseries were also established to serve the seedling requirements of the FDTs, containing 30,000 seedlings of 18 different tree species. In conjunction with the FDT establishment, extension materials on grafting techniques for macadamia and sontra were produced in both H’mong and Vietnamese languages. During this period, significant efforts were also put into planning and negotiating with provincial governments regarding the establishment of two agroforestry exemplar landscapes in Son la and Yen Bai.
The project also cooperated with the National Institute for Medicinal Materials (NIMM) on developing techniques for processing sontra concentrated extracts and tea bags. At the same time, several meetings with a Tea Company in region were held to explore the modality of ‘transferring the technology’ for sontra fruit processing, and to link sontra producers. The experiments on grafting techniques, top-working, pruning sontra trees, as well as screening of timber tree species are on-going.
The established trials were disseminated to extension workers and farmers through training and field visits. Eight training courses were conducted with a total of 174 participants. A Farmer Field Day was also conducted with 82 farmers and extension workers attending. The aim was to expose potential partners to different agroforestry trials to encourage upscaling. In July-August 2014, the project facilitated a cross-visit for 16 research and extension partners to ICRAF’s Conservation Agriculture and Agroforestry Centre in Claveria, Philippines, to improve their understanding on complex agroforestry system management and design. Five MSc and six BSc students also joined the project as interns. The project published 6 blog articles, 3 Vietnamese journal articles, 1 policy brief, and 1 working paper. In addition, 6 reports are currently being reviewed, and a manuscript on incentives and disincentives on agroforestry in Vietnam has been submitted to the Journal on Agroforestry Systems.
The project continues to face challenges such as insufficient time dedicated by partners to manage trials, complying the requirement of the trials and judicious fund utilization. Three established trials could not fulfil the requirements for scientific analysis (AFS5 and AFS10 and AFS11) primarily due to poor management. At the end of 2014, several replicated trials are still being intruded by animals and some trees need to be replanted. The project’s internal audit revealed several issues that need to be addressed by research partners, to ensure effective implementation of activities through the end of the project.
However, despite the challenges, there are encouraging signs of collaboration amongst researchers, local governments, extension workers and farmers demonstrated through the FDTs. The lesson learnt so far, is that participatory on-farm research requires dedicated time, resources and commitment by researchers, to build local social capital.
This report covers the period, April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. It highlights progress towards project objectives and impacts. The project has made significant progress in all components.
Ten established agroforestry trials are being managed and monitored, of which, 8 are considered for scientific analysis and 2 for demonstration. Initial analyses of field data suggest higher productivity and profitability of trialled agroforestry systems. Seven group nurseries have been established with 30,000 seedlings targeted for 18 different tree species, of which, 17,847 have already been planted in a total of 40ha Farmer Demonstration Trials (FDT). 71 FDT co-operators have been trained on laying out contour lines, establishing nurseries, preparing seedlings, and designing agroforestry fields; 7 extension materials on production techniques of different seedlings have also been published and distributed to intended users.
In collaboration with the Provincial Extension Department of Son la province and 31 households, a 50-ha agroforestry exemplar landscape has been established in Huoi Tan, Mai Son district, over which 22,000 trees have been planted. Species include longan, mango, plum, pomelo, and lemon. In addition, 50,000 meters of forage grass strips have been planted along contour lines to produce animal feed and control soil erosion. An additional 50ha exemplar agroforestry landscape in Tram Tau commune, Yen Bai province is also underway, targeting 20,000-grafted Son tra trees. Other components are maize, fodder grasses, and To Hap (altingiaceae) for windbreak. This initiative is a co-investment between the project and Yen Bai’s Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Science and Technology.
On July 2015, the signing of Technology Transfer Agreement for Son tra processing techniques between ICRAF and Tay Bac Tea and Special Food Company Limited (TAFOOD) was witnessed by then, ACIAR CEO Nick Austin. TAFOOD will use our research results to produce different processed products from Son tra fruits, creating income opportunities for Son tra producers and markets for traditional local products. The project also published 4 international journal articles, 2 working papers, 4 technical reports, 7 extension materials, 4 blog stories, and 2 videos. In addition, it was featured twice in national television programmes.
Two local policies have also been adopted by Yen Bai provincial government, to provide incentives for farmers to plant Son tra and establish contoured grasses for erosion control on sloping maize fields. As a result of our national-level policy dialogue, and in collaboration with FAO, an agroforestry Technical Working Group is currently being organized to (i) develop a major Agroforestry proposal to be endorsed by MARD as an ODA priority (Overseas Development Assistance); and (ii) extensively conduct an agroforestry policy analysis.
Our accomplishments this year was also accompanied by huge losses arising from a major drop in temperature in January 2016, which damaged a large number of seedlings and impacted the growth of Son tra trees and grasses in our FDTs. Outsourcing extra seedlings to replenish the nursery was called for. The project was therefore challenged with force majure events, and insufficient time dedicated by partners to manage the trials. Despite these, it is rewarding to gain the provincial governments’ trust and recognition of the value of the AFLI project, as well as their interest for more meaningful collaboration in the future.