Farmer-led Agricultural Innovation for Resilience
Agriculture is a vital source of income and employment in Vietnam, with more than half of the labour force working in the sector. Rice is a particularly important crop, and Vietnam is the second-largest rice exporter in the world. Most rice farmers cultivate less than half an acre of land.
Although small-scale farmers have substantially increased their yields in recent years, the costs of fuel, fertilisers and pesticides are also rising. Climate change is placing additional strain on rice cultivation. Farmers are therefore under pressure to intensify their production in order to maintain their livelihoods. However, more intensive practices deplete natural resources and lead to unsustainable land use.
In order to address these challenges, Oxfam supports innovation and knowledge creation among farmers, such as how to best adapt to climate change and to make sure successful new agricultural practices are widely disseminated and adopted.
Improving food security and livelihoods
Since 2007, Oxfam has been working on improving rice production techniques in Vietnam. This support is now part of the “Farmer-Led Agricultural Innovation for Resilience” (FLAIR) project, which has been implemented in the six northern provinces of Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Thai Nguyen, Hanoi, Phu Tho and Yen Bai since 2011. The goal of the project is to empower small-scale farming men and women to innovate and adapt their agricultural practices, so that they are better able to address the challenges they face and improve their food security and livelihoods.
FLAIR is currently focusing its activities in three areas. First, Oxfam encourages greater support at both the provincial and national level for scaling up the system of rice intensification (SRI), a low water, agro-ecological method aimed at increasing the yield of rice.
Secondly, FLAIR promotes innovation among small-scale farmers. While many farmers have innovative ideas on how to improve production techniques, successful models are often not identified, recognised or promoted by local governments.
Finally, Oxfam is improving the quality of extension services at provincial and local levels to be more responsive to the needs and interests of small-scale farmers and support farmer innovation.
Increasing rice yields
The number of farmers using SRI methods has increased from 95,000 in 2007 to 1.8 million farmers by the end of 2014. Farmers who have adopted SRI have achieved both higher yields and earn about $250 more per hectare. They have also become more confident about their abilities to make decisions on appropriate production and cultivation techniques.
In addition, there have been positive results at the national policy level. For example, in 2011 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued its action plan to respond to climate change. SRI was specifically recognised in the action plan as a priority adaptation method to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
In Thai Nguyen and Phu Tho provinces, Oxfam and the Farmers’ Union have organised farmer innovation forums, in which small-scale farmers submit innovative ideas that are assessed by provincial authorities. The two forums received dozens of new ideas, more than half of which came from women farmers.
Improving extension services
In order to improve agricultural extension services, Oxfam is encouraging provincial service providers to collaborate more closely and to develop joint work plans. So far, such plans have been developed and implemented in all six target provinces.
The FLAIR project is also working with 6,000 farmers to encourage information sharing. These farmers have formed a network to share experiences and increase their skills. The aim is to enable these farmers to become community facilitators who can introduce new agricultural production ideas and techniques. At the same time, the farmers can also provide feedback on community concerns and ideas to policy makers. These efforts will help to further improve the capacity and confidence of small-scale farmers. To date, 835 community consultation meetings have been organised by the farmer network, benefitting more than 35,000 farmers in the six provinces.
Project: Farmer-led agricultural innovation for resilience
Location: Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Thai Nguyen, Hanoi, Phu Tho and Yen Bai provinces, national-level advocacy
Time frame: 2011-2017