A national agroforestry policy is an imperative for Viet Nam
Despite clear evidence of agroforestry’s potential to address environmental degradation, food insecurity and poverty, there is no national agroforestry policy in Viet Nam. One is sorely needed, say researchers
Numerous agroforestry systems have been tested in Viet Nam by agricultural advisors and farmers over the years. The tests demonstrated that such systems not only can improve farmers’ livelihoods in comparison to monocropping but also bolster food security, reduce risks from disasters, strengthen adaption to climate change and help restore environmental functions to degraded landscapes.
Despite the body of evidence, widespread adoption of agroforestry systems has not yet occurred. To find out why, over the last two years researchers Elisabeth Simelton, Delia C. Catacutan, Dao Chau Thu and Le Duc Thinh at the World Agroforestry Centre Viet Nam, with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, reviewed over 50 national and provincial government policies and held 10 workshops with farmers, agricultural advisors, planners, policy makers and the private sector.
The conclusion drawn from this extensive review was that for agroforestry to be adopted by the nation’s farmers, policies are needed, particularly an overarching national policy.
At present, agriculture and forestry are segregated conceptually: none of the reviewed policies specifically mentioned their integration in agroforestry. To spur adoption, existing policies need to be built on, spelling out ‘agroforestry’—in addition to agriculture and forestry—in land-use plans and rural support programs, such as those for poor communes and districts and for new rural development, and in provincial policies supporting seedling cultivation and distribution.
The second-most delaying factor is that many farmers do not have secure land tenure and will not make long-term investments without it. Allocation of forestland needs to be finalised and other types of land tenure clarified. Linked to this is the provision of tree seedlings to poor farmers, who will simply plant what they are given on whatever land they are able to use whether or not the species are appropriate to their needs or of sufficiently high quality. Tailored and flexible support is needed for farmers with different investment capacities and needs, based on geographic conditions.
Low capacity and awareness of agroforestry among agricultural advisors in the extension network is also hampering its spread. Thousands of different agroforestry systems have been successfully tested, particularly in the Northwestern provinces, but none of them have been widely expanded. Partly this is due to a lack of financial capacity to support expansion by advisors, most of whom are typically specialised in a few common crops or trees rather than in combinations. Agroforestry in all its manifestations is its own kind of speciality. Universities and provincial technical schools need to update their training material and extension centres need to organize integrated-agroforestry courses for their staff who can then advise farmers more comprehensively.
Finally, the research showed that few farmers will invest in a new system without first being sure there is a market for the produce, traders provide asymmetric information on prices and markets and there is little post-harvest processing equipment that would allow value to be added by farmers. For these issues to be resolved, the entire agroforestry value-chain needs to be improved from the supply of seedlings to farmers through post-harvest processing to transport to the consumer.
An integrated approach throughout the nation is needed that only clearly thought-out and implemented policies can address. This is an imperative for the Government if it hopes to capitalise on the benefits that agroforestry can provide.
Read the policy brief
This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry