Successful agroforestry options in Viet Nam

Nora Devoe (left) and Nguyen Thi Thanh An (right) discussing seedling cultivation with farmer Leo Van Lech (centre). Photo: World Agroforestry/Tran Ha My

Evaluation of seven options for agroforestry systems has shown delivery of economic and environmental benefits and applicability to other locations


By Tran Ha My and Vu Thi Hanh, World Agroforestry, Vietnam

The evaluation was part of a review carried out from 7–9 May 2019 by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), led by Nora Devoe, ACIAR Forestry Program Manager of the Developing and Promoting Market-Based Agroforestry and Forest Rehabilitation Options for Northwest Viet Nam project. The project, now in its second phase, will run until 2021.

‘This project has been very valuable both in terms of livelihoods and the environment,’ said Devoe. ‘Farmers are benefitting directly from the grasses, fruit trees and short-term agricultural crops. The trials are really good because of their ability to restore fertility and stabilize sloping land.’

She also emphasized that farmers were sharing the knowledge and experience about agroforestry that they’d gained from their involvement with the project.

Vietnamese and foreign researchers with farmers on their way to examine one of the demonstration sites. Photo: World Agroforestry/Tran Ha My

The agroforestry systems are replacing monocultural maize production, which had dominated the area, causing widespread deforestation and degradation of land. Thanks to the evidence produced by the various trials of different options of agroforestry systems in three provinces, the options are now being expanded in six ‘agroforestry landscapes’ covering 300 hectares. Nearly 200 farmers are establishing community tree-nurseries and participating in growing the systems. The options were designed to be economically and environmentally more attractive to farmers than the monocultural maize.

The evaluation found that this had been successful. The return-on-investment period was two years for a longan, maize and fodder-grass system in one of the landscapes in Van Chan, Yen Bai Province. Profits were predicted to increase gradually, reaching their maximum in year seven. The average yearly profit over 20 years was expected to be about VND 55 million (approximately USD 2400) per hectare. The net profit of monoculture was VND 9–10 million (USD 385–420) per hectare per year.

Detail of the longan (right), maize (left) and fodder-grass (centre) system in Yen Bai. Photo: World Agroforestry/Do Van Hung

Another option, ‘son tra’ (Docynia indica)and fodder grass in Toa Tinh, Dien Bien Province, showed a return on investment from the third year. The annual profit was predicted to be more than VND 50 million (approximately USD 2,100)  per hectare in years seven to 14and more than VND 30 million (approximately USD 1,300) in years five and six and 15–20.

Research into son tra is continuing and the project has been cooperating with farmers and the TAFOOD company to improve production from15 hectares already under son tra in Bac Yen, Son La. In addition, links between agroforestry producers and larger businesses is being encouraged so as to createa stablemarket chain. Several companies, such as TAFOOD, Hoang Duong Production and Trading Joint Stock Company, and BIGGREEN Viet Nam Food Company, have started working with farmers to improve the qualityof products.

Environmentally, from the second year onwards the agroforestry options demonstrated 50–77%reductions in soil erosion compared to monocultural maize.

Mapping of suitable agroforestry optionswas also studied in the three provinces along with research on integrated landscape management in Na Nhan and Dien Bien.

‘GIS [geographic information systems] will be used in 2019–2020 to create maps of the landscape in Son La,’ said Vu Tan Phuong of the Viet Nam Academy of Forest Science.

Part of the project involved finding the best ways to rehabilitate degraded forests through research sites in Dien Bien and Son La provinces. More than 100 households participated in replanting 20,000 seedlings on nearly 100 hectares in the two provinces.

‘Regenerated forest may not contain as many values as natural forest itself, such as biodiversity or habitats for plants and animals’, said Devoe, ‘but in the context of Northwest Viet Nam, forest regeneration is useful and valuable not only for the forest but also for the people, especially, for those whose livelihoods depend on the forest’.

There were many challenges to rehabilitating forests, according to Dang Thinh Trieu of the Viet Nam Academy of Forest Science.

‘These include unfavourable weather and climate, pests and diseases or some farmers refusingto be involveddue to fear of failure or change of land use when activities had begun to be implemented,’he said.

In addition to working closely with research institutes— Viet Nam Academy of Forest Science, Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute and Northern Mountainous Agriculture & Forestry Science Institute)–local government departments (especially those of Rural Development), in Son La, Yen Bai and Dien Bien provinces, the project also collaborates with universities, such as Southern Cross University in Australia on capacity building; and withTay Bac University in Son La province on the various agroforestry trials.

A small part of a 50-hectare agroforestry landscape in Hat Lot, Mai Son, Son La. Photo: World Agroforestry/Tran Ha My

‘A close and professional interaction and collaboration among project partners is an important prerequisite for the success of a project,’ said Devoe. ‘I expect this will be maintained and further developed until the project ends in 2021’.

Developing and Promoting Market-Based Agroforestry and Forest Rehabilitation Options for Northwest Viet Nam has five objectives: 1) to quantify and evaluate the performance of generic agroforestry options and tree species to underpin investment in agroforestry; 2) to understand the suitability of different agroforestry options in relation to various contexts and develop markets and policy to scale up adoption; 3) to understand the ecological and economic values of degraded forests and co-develop rehabilitation methods with communities; 4) to understand the drivers of land-use change and develop cross-sector planning approaches for landscapes, integrating forests and agroforestry land uses; and 5) to develop the local capacity for agroforestry, forest rehabilitation and integrated landscape management.

World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of science and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Leveraging the world’s largest repository of agroforestry science and information, we develop knowledge practices, from farmers’ fields to the global sphere, to ensure food security and environmental sustainability. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.'

Tran Ha My

Tran Ha My is a communications assistant with the World Agroforestry Centre Viet Nam. She is a graduate of the Journalism and Communications University of Viet Nam. Formerly she worked as editor and communications assistant with a national organization. She hopes to pursue a masters’ degree in journalism and communications. Email:

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