In April 2018, Dr Van Kien Nguyen (founder of Mekong Organics Foundation) and Dr Daniel Gilfillan (co-founder) visited several organic farmers in the Mekong Delta. Among others, we met Mr Le Quoc Viet, the pioneer of agriculture conservation in Kien Giang province, Vietnam.
Mr Viet initiated the recovery of traditional rice cultivation (lúa mùa) both at his own expense with external support from friends, plus a bank loan. Mr Viet is a rice farmer and head of Sub-Department of Agriculture & Rural Development of Chau Thanh District. He identified that modern “conventional” rice farming as practised in the region is destroying the ecosystem, environment and aquatic animals. This damage is done through the use of monocultures, pesticides, herbicides, excessive fertilizer use and the abandonment of traditional interlinked ecosystems. Through this initiative, Mr Viet wishes to recover the unique culture and ecosystem provided by traditional farming practices (traditional rice seed collection, transplanting, harvesting, and threshing by hands). He uses his traditional paddy fields to educate the next generation in sustainable agriculture in the Mekong Delta.
Learning from Mr Viet’s great work, Mekong Organics is seeking financial resources to support sustainable organic farming in Southeast Asia.
PURPOSE OF THE FOUNDATION
The purpose of the foundation is to
- (1) promote organic agriculture and trade in Southeast Asia’s river delta regions and
- (2) exchange visits between Southeast Asian farmers and academics, and Australian organic and regenerative farmers and other experts.
Mr Le Quoc Viet (“Mr Viet”) a farmer of 373, Minh Phu Cluster, Minh Lương Town, Châu Thành District, Kiên Giang province is the pioneer of ecological/organic traditional rice farm conservation in the South of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta. He received financial support through Mekong Organics Foundation for his preservation of “traditional rice-based agroecological farming system” in Vinh Hoa Phu commune, Chau Thanh District of Kien Giang province, Vietnam, funded by the Tiliara Foundation (based in Sydney Australia) through the project Organic Farming in the Mekong Delta Vietnam (RAOAF) – https://donations.rawcs.com.au and administered by Mekong Organics PTY LTD (Australia).
In 2019, the foundation was finally approved by Tiliara Foundation (based in Sydney Australia) through Organic Farming in the Mekong Delta Vietnam (RAOAF) – https://donations.rawcs.com.au and administered by Mekong Organics PTY LTD.
Mekong Organics PTY LTD signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Rotary Club of Hall Palmer St, Hall ACT 2618 Australia on 7th April 2020 to initiate the project “Organic Farming in the Mekong Delta Vietnam (RAOAF)” with number 116-2019-20 was registered at
The RAOAF allows the transfer to Vietnam of a total of $AUD 25,500 to be used as interest free loans for up to three years. Mr Viet will use the loans to build a rice storage in an area of 50 square metres to store 50 metric tons of paddies round year. With this initial support, he could buy all paddies from farmers in the project safely. Mr LE also used part of the loan to buy a mini rice mill that allows him to mill paddies for selling rice directly to clients.
The first stage of the loan was transferred safely in August 2020. The second stage will release in February 2021. The final loan will be evaluated to be released in the second half of 2021.
INITIAL OUTCOMES OF THE PROJECT
INCREASING AREA AND FARMER PARTICIPATION
In 2019, there were 35 farmers with 39.6 ha participating in the project. The average yield was three tones/ha.
In 2020, 39 farmers joined the project to make a total of 51 ha. A farmer cooperative was established at Vinh Quoi hamlet of Vinh Hoa Phu Commune in June 2020. In 2020, the average rice yield may be at 2.7 tones/ha, due to two storms’ impacts in August and September.
Before 2019, farmers cultivated high yielding rice variety (HYV) such as the OM5451 and rotated that with salt-water shrimp (tiger shrimp/whiteleg shrimp) in the dry season. After harvesting rice in December, farmers in Vinh Hoa Phu Commune sold directly to local traders or middle-men with the price of VND 7,000/kilogram of paddies.
Since Mr Viet implemented the project, farmers can now also integrate freshwater prawn (tôm càng xanh) into the traditional rice (lúa mùa) system during the wet season because farmers do not use chemicals.
Farmers earned increased income from the added freshwater prawn crop before they rotated to shrimp in the dry season and earned an extra income of VND5,000/kilogram of paddies compared with before the project. That’s an increase in income of 71 percent.
CONSERVATION OF TRADITIONAL RICE VERIETY
Six traditional rice variety were selected by Mr Le since 2017. These variety comprises Tàu Hương, Trắng Tép, Móng Chim, Một Bụi, Ba Bụi, Châu Hạng Võ. The selected variety were promoted by urban consumers as they are willing to pay for the traditional rice.
Mr Le’s traditional rice and the rice he bought from farmers in the project is milled and sold directly to consumers at a local market in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City, through a network of green buyers, shops, restaurants in Can Tho and HCM City.
More importantly, his milled rice is cooked at the vegetarian restaurant at No 1A, Street 12, An Lac A Ward, Binh Tan District, HCM City (Quán Chay Phước Lộc Phú/Cơm Chay Lúa Mùa Đặc Sản – số 1A đường số 12 Phường An Lạc A, Quận Bình Tân, TPHCM) in HCM city.
The owner of the restaurant developed this start-up company to promote the ecological friendly foods to urban communities, linking to rural producers in the Mekong Delta. His Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/sung.nguyen.90/
Mr Viet has built a homestay with six double bedrooms for visitors, a cultural house to store traditional tools and local rice culture, two rice storages, three mini rice mills and one rice colour shorting machine.
Hundreds of university and high school students, teachers, researchers, local government, farm extension workers, NGOs, international organizations have visited his farm since 2017. The number of visits in 2020 was hosted by Mr LE below:
On 1st Oct 2020, Mr Viet provided a lecturer on agriculture conservation to 12 undergraduate students of agriculture and rural development from Kien Giang University.
On 22 Sep 2020, Me Viet welcomed technical staffs from An Giang Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.
On 17th Sep 2020, Mr Viet welcomed the Loc Troi Group representatives to collaborate with the local agricultural cooperative for selling traditional rice (40 farmers participated).
On 16 Sep 2020, Mr Viet welcomed and shared outcomes of the conservation project to 38 farmers and staffs from Center for farmer support of Can Gio District of HCM City.
On 28th August 2020, Mr Viet welcomed 48 undergraduate students of agriculture from Can Tho University, Vietnam.
On 1st August 2020, Mr Viet welcomed Prof Ngo Thi Phuong Lan, the president of HCM Social Sciences and Humanity University, Vietnam National University HCM City.
On 1st July 2020, Mr Viet hosted the stakeholder workshop to attract total 45 participants who are farmers, local government staffs, private sectors, and scientists. The workshop was co-hosted with the research project funded by Rufford Foundation https://www.rufford.org/projects/nguyen_van_kien_0
Local and regional media (newspapers and television) have published and broadcast information about this conservation work.
Mr Le Quoc Viet – posted the progress of traditional rice conservation and organic rice development
NewspapersTư Lúa Mùa và cái ngông làm lúa mùa: Tư Lúa Mùa và cái ngông làm lúa mùa (thegioihoinhap.vn)
Người giữ lúa mùa: Người giữ lúa mùa | Phóng sự / Điều tra | Thanh Niên (thanhnien.vn)
Lúa mùa – Nét đẹp văn hóa nông nghiệp Nam bộ | THKG https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr8uoxC93Yk&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR12E0Q45GwF-fBDgqTvXuJrxuvRlJk7rnzKR02DRSHBQYg2ez4JORorFt4
FURTHER RESEARCHMr Viet is partnered with Research Center for Rural Development of An Giang University and the Mekong Organics PTY LTD (Australia) to undertake a long-term research program, through a UK funded project by the Rufford Foundation https://www.rufford.org/projects/nguyen_van_kien_0. They study biodiversity, soils, water, sustainable agriculture systems, socioeconomics, rice seed purification, nutrition health and develop the value-added products (such as rice vermicelli) to diversify the local rice market. The research outcomes are used for creating ecological friendly, organic traditional rice in the Mekong Region.