Vietnam is the world’s second largest exporter of shrimps. In 2017, exports were valued at US$4 billion. Production in the country increased especially in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s, in response to growing consumer demand and to take advantage of export markets. About 30% of all shrimp produced in Vietnam, is grown in southern Ca Mau province. Many smallholder shrimp farmers expanded their production in the local mangrove forests and cleared them to create efficient, intensive production.
Removing mangrove trees however has several negative effects on shrimp growth: shrimps’ preferred habitat is reduced, the availability of natural feeds declines, salt water intrusion increases, and day-time water temperatures rise as shading trees disappear. Shrimp yields decline as a result. Clearing mangrove forests also increases greenhouse gas emissions and causes coastal erosion, reducing climate change resilience in a country already very vulnerable to its effects.
Mangroves and markets: a multi-faceted project
The Mangroves and markets (MAM) project started in 2012, funded by the German ministry for Environment and Nuclear Safety. In 2016, the project was extended with a second phase which will last until February 2020. The project aims to establish a sustainable shrimp aquaculture value chain that protects and increases mangrove coverage while improving yields through the use of ecological farming practices.
SNV supported the provincial government to develop policies on mangrove forest protection and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES): provincial regulation (111/PPC) and decree 156. These align with the national Forestry Law that outlines Vietnam’s priorities to increase climate change resilience by protecting and re-establishing mangrove forests. The FMBs implement of decree 156 and regulation (111/PPC) by monitoring deforestation in their task area as well as the legal felling and replanting of forests on the shrimp ponds. Through this combined approach incomes increase and protecting mangrove forests becomes financially attractive.
To date, SNV has trained 5,500 farmers, and an accumulated 3,200 farmers and 2 shrimp hatcheries have received organic certifications. The project also improved farmers’ access to information on market, weather and environmental conditions through smart phone apps that helps improve their decision-making power. SNV has partnered with the country largest shrimp export firm, Minh Phu since the project’s start. A second processor, Cuu Long Seapro located in Tra Vinh Province joined the project in phase II. The project also supported three additional to develop organic shrimp activities. The project established 42 model shrimp farmers to showcase improved productivity methods and worked with research institutes (such as Can Tho Univeristy and Ho Chi Minh Agriculture and Forestry University) to implement scientific studies on the best rearing practices and the development of organic aquaculture in the Mekong Delta.
Up to now, the project has protected 12,600 hectares and replanted 80 hectares of mangrove forest. “The MAM project has created the connection between aquaculture and mangroves. It has raised people’s awareness and contributed to the province’s sustainable development.” – Mr. Chau Cong Bang, Deputy director Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Ca Mau province.