Living Delta Hub: Organic Agriculture and Food System in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

By Dr Van Kien Nguyen, project lead at Research Center for Rural Development, An Giang University, Vietnam National University

Living Deltas – Global Challenges – Newcastle University (ncl.ac.uk)

The Living Deltas Research Hub is funded for five years (2019-2024) and operates across four delta systems – Red River, Mekong deltas in Vietnam; the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna system in Bangladesh and India.  We call these ‘social-ecological systems.

A team of over 120 members from 20+ academic institutions, including 50 postdoc research associates, and 10 international PhD studentships. with six working packages.

Research Center for Rural Development (RCRD) of An Giang University is one leading member in the Mekong Delta. Four senior researchers from RCRD and 7 research assistants joined this research project in three major working packages: 1, 2, and 4.

Organic agriculture and food system sub-working package 2 is one of the core tasks of RCRD team. Mekong Organics is the technical advisor for the sub-package who facilitates stakeholder engagement, linking farmers to the private frim to buy organic rice, and partnering with NGO (Asia Organic Agriculture Research Institute_IOA), farmer cooperative (Vinh Loi Rice Cooperative) in Thanh Tri District of Soc Trang province and Soc Trang DARD leaders to pilot the organic agriculture model in 23 rice farmers with 30 hectares of rice paddies in the winter crop 2021-2022.

Due to covid-19 pandemic disruption, it took a year for the research team and partners (AOI) to evaluate and select the potential farmer group and community as well as the regulation of the authorities. It was evident that some farmer groups meet the biophysical criteria (soils and water are suitable to grow organic rice), but lack leadership capacity and community leaders to promote this initiative. Some communities have a strong governmental support by legal advice and land use regulation, but the soils and water are vulnerable to pesticide contamination from the neighbouring conventional farms. Consequently, it took a long process with many zoom meeting among the project team (RCRD), experts (Mekong Organics), and consultants (IAO) to review and sit down for making a milestone.

An organic rice field in the Mekong Delta

Finally, we actually co-found the site which satisfies with both biophysical, social, and cultural knowledge that enable collaboration and facilitation of the organic rice system which aims to offer a better life for smallholder farmers in the Mekong Delta, a very vulnerable region to the impacts of climate change.

With the commitment of local NGOs partners (AOI), local and provincial government (Soc Trang DARD), Thanh Tri People Committee, and Sub-DARD, the private firm (Hong Tan), and the rice cooperative (Vinh Loi Cooperative), and their famer members, we expect the outcomes of the project will change the farming system practices, improve wellbeing for smallholder farmers, and building trust among researchers, NGOs, government, private sector and farmers to develop a sustainable organic agriculture food system in the Lower Mekong Region.

The initial outcome of the Living Delta Hub/Food System Sub-WP2 has changed the behaviour of the farmers in the cooperaive who are actively participating the training course in “organic food production, certification, and trade” by Mekong Organics, funded by DFAT, AVEG pilot program. Mr Ut, the Director of Vinh Loi Cooperative is the active participant of the course. Course link is https://mekongorganics.com/training-in-organic-food-production-certification-and-trade-forum/

Kick off meeting to start the organic rice system under the sub-wp2 agriculture and food system, living deltas hub!

The outcomes and outputs of the sub-WP2 will be promoted through the Mekong Organics Platform, a free, not for profit activity, that aims to connect Vietnamese organic farmers to the global consumers to build the local sustainable food system.

Your stories will be updated during and after the project ends!

On 25 Nov 2021, our research team hosted a kick off meeting to make a milestone for the organic agriculture and food system progress. Our research team (8 members) hosted a stakeholder workshop with the representation of consultant team (AOI), provincial and district local authorities of DARD and Sub-DARD, private firm (Hong Tan Company), and Vinh Loi Agriculture Cooperative via zoom. We agreed three things: 1/ sign an MoU of stakeholders’ roles and tasks in the project. The MoU set up the roles, and activities of each party (DRAD, Sub-DRAD), Hong Tan Company (the buyer of organic rice), AOI (the international organic certification consultation (USDA/EU)), and the Vinh Loi Agriculture Cooperative. 2/ We agreed the timeline and reporting tasks for each partner. The notable achievement is to involve DARD and Sub-DARD staffs into the project who are active in the co-design processes, sharing ideas to develop a project in a sustainable way.

A quote from Mr Nha, deputy Director of Sub-DARD (Thanh Tri) said that “the project is very important to support the district to move toward organic food production, so we must go through each step carefully to comply with the organic standards, he advised the Director of Vinh Loi cooperaive during the meeting”.

Mrs Hang, Director of Hong Tan Company said she committed to join in this initiative to develop a sustainable organic rice production. The company may compensate the losses of yields to natural disaster.

Mr Vo Thien Tanh, a local organic rice advisor, has long lasting experience in supporting farmers. He will in touch with farmers to provide adequate training for preparing organic input, and practice of organic rice for the project.

Dr. Kien, the project lead, concluded we should do the best effort during covid-19 pandemic restriction. The outcomes will be paid off for our effort to support the community.

All shook hands for action!

Will update the project activities progress at this page

The kick off meeting is held on 25 November 20

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