Agriculture in general and rice production systems in particular are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rice farming is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (nitrous oxide and methane). This has significant implications for Vietnam - as one of the top five countries likely to be most affected by climate change and a nation reliant on rice production for national and household food security as well as economic development.
In this context, the most vulnerable are smallholder rice farmers. There is a substantial need for rice production systems that are less vulnerable and more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change, while emitting fewer harmful greenhouse gases and remaining profitable for farmers. The ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ project, which was implemented from September 2012 until December 2015 and funded by the Australian Government, supported and built the capacity of smallholder rice producers and provincial agencies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve smallholder benefits from rice production in central Vietnam.
This was done by introducing low emission production practices, utilising renewable energy generated from rice residues and promoting the value chain of green rice. The rice production system was improved by applying the System of Rice Intensification (SRI); an innovative, efficient and environmentally-sustainable production system that increases productivity of rice cultivation while reducing GHG emissions and requirements for water, seeds, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and labour, especially tasks performed by women.
The project aimed at women empowerment and capacity building for local stakeholders, including farmers, cooperatives, local government, agriculture sector, Women’s Union and private sector as the most important entry points to ensure sustainability of socio-economic development, agriculture livelihoods success, gender equality and community development. Through an integrated approach the project focused on four key actions:
- Promoted the application of the System of Rice Intensification - The major benefits include reduced emissions of methane and nitrous oxide; reduced demand for water; and reduced use of nitrogen-based fertilizer, and at the same time, increase resilience for rice and farmers. Utilising Renewable Energy technologies in conjunction with SRI makes the whole chain of production more sustainable.
- Introduced Inclusive Business and Value Chains approaches - Profitable and sustainable entrepreneurial initiatives that contribute to poverty reduction by including lower-income communities within the value chains of companies. The project promoted and supported the design and implementation of inclusive business plans to include the rice farmers as suppliers into the value chains of companies.
- Promoted a knowledge platform for documentation and sharing of lessons learnt - Knowledge, experiences and lesson learnt were compiled, documented and disseminated to ensure benefits are shared, for farmers, policy development and informed decision making at all levels.
- Built capacity and raised awareness about climate change and its impact on agriculture – Building capacity and raising awareness and understanding of farmers, local authorities, extension officers and Community Based Organisations (Farmers’ and Women’s Union) to support the technology transfer and ensure the sustainability of inclusive business, value chain and gender equality activities.
The activities undertaken under the Sowing Seeds of Change project resulted in:
- The application of SRI through 5 crops in 18 cooperatives of 8 districts in 2 provinces;
- Plantation of approximately 4,000 ha of SRI rice with the participation of more than 9,000 farmers. Local authorities approved the plan to upscale the SRI farming technique to 10,000 ha in Quang Binh and 40,000 ha in Binh Dinh;
- Reduction of input costs (including seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and labour) with 20 to 25% and CO2 emissions from 18 tons/ha for conventional fields to 14 tons/ha for SRI fields.
Increase resilience to climate change through improved rice production techniques
Increase income and strengthen capacity for smallholder rice farmers through better market linkages
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through rice residue management