New coordinated research initiative launched in Viet Nam
The Humidtropics’ Research for Development Platform for Northwest Viet Nam will help focus national and world attention on the region to address major challenges
The Humidtropics’ Research for Development (R4D) Platform in the Northwest of Viet Nam was launched in Son La City, Son La Province on 13 March 2015 at a meeting attended by more than 40 people representing a wide range of organizations: international and national research institutes, government agencies, such as the departments of Plant Protection, Crop Production, Agricultural Extension, and Health, and farmers’ associations, women’s unions, and international and local NGOs.
The World Agroforestry Centre Viet Nam program officially launched the Research for Development (R4D) Platform to consolidate the different research activities in the region so as to drive a joint effort to transform the lives of the rural poor. The R4D Platform will serve as a space where researchers and others can prioritize research topics and share and validate results. Farmers are engaged with the Platform to ensure that research is demand-oriented and local people feel ownership. This is particularly important to promote expansion of the research results.
The results of a situational analysis for Northwest Viet Nam conducted under Humidtropics showed that shifting cultivation and monocropping of annuals, such as maize, rice and cassava, are the main reasons for high levels of soil erosion and degradation that have resulted in low yields. Other issues that emerged from the study were productivity and soil degradation; special indigenous and high-value products; needs and opportunities for ethnic minorities; value-chain development and improving dietary diversity. The Humidtropics through the R4D Platform plans to demonstrate integrated solutions based on the results of the analysis.
On the first day of the meeting, the participants were taken on a field trip and introduced to four demonstration sites by Humidtropics partners. The sites showcased a coffee, fruit and grass system managed by the Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute in partnership with the Centre for Agrarian Systems Research and Development, Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute and Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute; home-based, off-season vegetable gardens and home-based production systems managed by the World Vegetable Centre; and teak, plum, coffee, maize and fodder grass and macadamia, coffee and short-term crops managed by the World Agroforestry Centre.
During the field trip, the participants witnessed steep, bare hills where farmers cultivated annual crops, such as cassava and maize, even up to the summits, where soil fertility was very low. The researchers expect that integrated systems will increase farmers’ incomes through improving yields while protecting the soil, overcoming a major challenge facing farmers in the region: gaining access to larger markets because most of current production is consumed by local households and markets. Accordingly, together with the lessons learned at the demonstration sites, various training sessions on cultivation and marketing techniques will be provided to both farmers and agricultural extension workers.
On the second day, the participants were introduced to Humidtropics’ system approach and the basics of the R4D Platform. They identified several topics that Humidtropics could focus on, such as customer and market surveys for the Northwest’s agricultural products, development of indigenous products—such as native black chickens, pigs, vegetables and fruit—and indigenous nutritional knowledge. Administrative matters were also discussed.
Most of the activities of the Northwest Viet Nam Action Site in the Humidtropics’ Central Mekong Action Area will be conducted in Son La Province and to a lesser extent, Dien Bien. The mountainous Northwest borders China to the north and Lao PDR to the south and is home to about 30 ethnic minorities with distinct languages and traditions, including different cultivation practices, such as the Thai, H’mong and Nung peoples.
Roughly 80% of livelihoods are based on agriculture, with poverty rates in Son La and Dien Bien at 29.4% and 38.6%, respectively; the national average is 9.8%, according to the General Statistics Office. In the four Northwestern provinces of Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Lao Cai, 17 districts are included in the list of 61 extremely poor districts under the Government’s program for poverty reduction.
To address these issues, in the next six months, research activities on a wide range of topics will be carried out: integrated farm trials, off-season vegetable testing, home gardens and home-based production systems, water management, and nutrition. At the next R4D meeting in September/October 2015, researchers will present their initial results to farmers, agricultural extension workers, agricultural production officers, policy makers and NGO staff who share the same interest in comprehensive and sustainable development for the Northwest of Viet Nam.
This is the fourth R4D Platform launched in the Humidtropics Central Mekong Action Area and the second in Viet Nam after the Central Highlands. The other two Platforms are, Together Making Nan Better, in Northwest Thailand, and Xishuangbanna Alliance for Rural Sustainability, in Yunnan, China. The R4D Platforms show CGIAR centres’ commitment toward more needs-driven research, which will lead to greater expansion and impact.