Tri Luc Organic Cooperative is located in the Tri Luc Commune of Thoi Binh District of Ca Mau province where the organic rice-shrimp farming has been promoted and developed with the strongly support from the government, NGOs and private sector. Total area of potential organic rice-shrimp reaches to over 15,000 ha in the Thoi Binh District, of which, over 1000 ha is distributed in Tri Luc Commune. There is an urgent need from the community to convert it into an “organic village” using international experiences.
Climate change adds risk to the current rice-based food systems in the Mekong Delta. Rice yields will be affected negatively by sea level rise and climate change in the Mekong Delta (Wassmann et al. 2004; Thuy and Anh 2015). Recent severe drought events, together with saline intrusion caused losses worth VND 8.9 trillion (USD 4 million), destroying 250,000 ha of rice fields (in 2016) and 362,000 ha of rice fields in 2020 (Asia News 2020). Agriculture generates 19-29% of total GHG emissions (The World Bank 2019). Improved practices for paddy cultivation are key to reducing agricultural emissions by 8–25% (The World Bank 2019).
In response to these challenges some smallholder farmers have developed a highly innovative organic rice-shrimp farming system that is resilient to drought and saline intrusion. These farmers cultivate rice in the wet season (August to December) which flushes out salinity and provides sufficient fresh water for a productive rice crop. During the dry season (January to May), these farmers allow saline water to intrude into selected fields. Salt-water shrimp are then grown in these fields. This system does not demand fresh water for dry season irrigation. Rather, this unique system has adapted to the natural seasonal wet-dry water dynamics. This integration of rice and marine shrimp is highly suited for high value organic food production. Rice-shrimp farming area are less likely to be contaminated by chemical fertilizers and antibiotics than intensive shrimp farming or chemically intensive shrimp farming system that dominates the Mekong Delta (Braun et al. 2019). This rice-marine shrimp system is naturally independent of agrichemical inputs. If farmers used pesticides on their rainy season rice, shrimp may not survive during the saline phase. While this system has been shown to be environmentally sustainable, its economic viability is currently constrained as it is less intensive and produces lower yields of both rice and shrimp. What is lacking is internationally recognized organic certification and links to discerning markets with the willingness to pay a premium for organic rice and shrimp.
Since 2017 several domestic rice businesses partnered with the local authorities and the Tri Luc cooperative to grow organic rice (one crop/year) on the shrimp farm. The organic rice were certified by USDA/NOP, EU and JAS standards for the international and domestic market.
There is a strong need from the local farmers, the cooperative and authorities to scale up this successful organic rice-shrimp systems and trade to other villages in the Thoi Binh District and upgrade it into the the “organic village” using the international experience.
Mekong Organics received the formal request from local government (Tri Luc People’s Committee), private sector (Minh Phu Seafood Cooperative), and the Tri Luc Cooperative to design and operate the “organic village” using the international experience from the Mekong Organics expert network.
In July 2022 Mekong Organics hosted a field visit to the Tri Luc commune, Tri Luc cooperative, local government and private sector to undertake per-feasibility assessment with the support from local authorities and Minh Phu Seafood Cooperation, Minh Phu Mangrove Shrimp Social Enterprise. We found that there is a high opportunity to support the Tri Luc cooperative and Commune to lead the first organic cultural village initiative in the Mekong Delta. We will assist the community to co-design using their own village experience combining with international best practice and operate it. We are seeking for international and national supports & grants to undertake this initiative.
We consider the roles of gender in sustainable resource management and organic agriculture farming and trade in using the local natural resources. Through the discussion with the women and men at the Tri Luc Cooperative and the MCD, a local NGO as well as the social enterprise (Minh Phu Mangrove Shrimp Social Enterprise) we have seen the women in this village are quite proactive in participation in public meetings and discussions for community development.
We set up the MoU for this potential project and support training in English for rural kids and students in the village as well as to train local staffs and farmers how to design and operate the organic village in 2023.
On 5 October 2022, Mekong Organics and MCD, a local NGO in Hanoi, Vietnam had a first discussion about the “Organic Village” initiative for the Tri Luc Organic Rice Cooperative. We explored the synergies of two organization’s development activities on the ground for future collaboration.
In the afternoon of 5th October the Mekong Organics team members hosted the meeting with local stakeholders, including Ca Mau DARD, Department of Crops and Plant Protection, Minh Phu Mangrove Shrimp Social Enterprise, and Tri Luc People’s Committee. We undertook co-designed process to identify relevant stakeholders, existing resources, social network, and political wills of the community to promote the organic cultural village in Tri Luc commune. We identified building human capital is the key to lead this initiative. Mekong Organics continue to explore other opportunities with relevant stakeholders, NGOs, private sectors to co-design the strategic and action plan for the community to implement their vision.
On 1st September 2022, Mekong Organics offered a scholarship for a 11 year high school girl in Tri Luc commune to join the English for rural kids initiative which aims to support the education for Tri Luc community to promote organic food production system in Ca Mau.