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posted on 12 Feb, 2016

Sustainable cropping alternatives to irrigated rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

Since 2011, GIZ together with Australia (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - DFAT) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) are implementing a project on integrated coastal zone management in the Mekong Delta (ICMP) in Vietnam. Dyke construction and mangrove afforestation and maintenance help to protect the sensitive coastline of the Mekong Delta against erosion and bad weather conditions, and ensure a special habitat for endemic flora and fauna.

The Mekong Delta itself is one of the most intensively managed agricultural zones in the world and home to more than 17 million people. The main crop in the delta is irrigated rice. Rising seawater levels and evapotranspiration, i.e. the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the earth's land and ocean surface to the atmosphere, in the many irrigated areas are leading to increased salinization of soil. This makes rice cultivation a risky and questionable crop in the near future.

GFA Consulting Group is currently implementing a six-month study in the region to find out sustainable and financially attractive cropping alternatives for farmers in the Mekong Delta. Possible substitutes to rice cultivation have been identified through an inception field visit, stakeholder interviews and discussions with local farmers and politicians. The team started collecting data on rice-fish production, rice-shrimp production or rice-mussel production as well as on vegetable or fruit tree cropping in January 2016. The feasibility of the different cropping systems will be evaluated through a stakeholder questionnaire and interviews and a cost-benefit analysis.

Results from the study will be important for the conceptualization of the GIZ project's third phase starting in 2017, when findings will be up-scaled to a larger area. A joint approach with a project funded by the World Bank in the region is an option. Therefore, the GFA team is evaluating and considering different funding schemes and safeguard policies of potential partners such as KfW, Green Climate Fund and the World Bank during the study's site selection and data collection.

by  Lena Rathjen