September 5, 2015

In Vietnam, Landscape Approach Brings Stakeholders Together to Address Climate Change

Abigail HartEcoAgriculture Partners

In Vietnam, somewhere between the aspirations of farmers and the goals of the national government lies an opportunity to implement the landscape approach.

Editor’s Note: In the last few months, EcoAgriculture Partners visited the Ha Tinh province of Vietnam to study strategies for climate change mitigation and resilience in agriculture. While there, project manager Abigail Hart noted a disjuncture between farmers and policymakers about the desired outcomes for agriculture in Vietnam. The forthcoming book Steps Toward Green discusses how policymakers can address the gap between environmental aspirations and its applications, as well as standardize environmental stewardship through land use policies. In this post, Abigail discusses entry points, on the farm and in the landscape, for policymakers to collaborate and engage in constructive dialogue to improve Vietnamese communities’ resilience to climate change.

This post originally appeared on the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Blog
Join the experts on September 15th in a panel discussion on commodity agriculture, development, and policy in East and Southeast Asia.

Join the experts on September 15th in a panel discussion on commodity agriculture, development, and policy in East and Southeast Asia.

We stopped by the roadside to eat keo cu-do, a sweet, gingery peanut cake for which Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province is famous. The treat highlights peanuts, a crop that takes well to Ha Tinh’s hot weather, variable rainfall and poor soils. As the representative from EcoAgriculture Partners, I worked with a group of partners from the International Food Policy Research Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Planning and Projection of Vietnam to interview farmers and other stakeholders on their experiences with climate change, and their interest in collaborating with others in their landscape to address climate change. This work was part of the a project called Landscape Approaches for Climate Change Mitigation in Agriculture (LACCMA). The goal of the project is to identify ways that a landscape approach could bring stakeholders together at the landscape level to help the Vietnam meet the mitigation targets it has set for itself.

Peanuts grow well in the Ha Tinh province, where the climate is characterized by extremes in heat and rainfall and the soils are poor. Photo credit to xuanhuongho / Shutterstock.com.

Peanuts grow well in the Ha Tinh province, where the climate is characterized by extremes in heat and rainfall and the soils are poor. Photo credit to xuanhuongho / Shutterstock.com.

Adapt or mitigate?

As we chatted over our peanut cakes, we noted that farmers in Ha Tinh are much more interested in adapting to climate change, while mitigation is (for the most part), far from farmer’s minds. In recent years, the winters have been colder, droughts longer and monsoons more severe. This combination of changes has pushed farmers to select new varieties for the province’s staples that can be planted after the coldest weather and harvested before the monsoons come. At the same time, however, the provincial government has plans for major economic growth. The government’s goal is to turn agriculture in Ha Tinh to a smaller percentage of the province’s GDP and its land use through policies and plans to industrialize major commodities like pork products, aquaculture, and high value crops produced in the region, such as the corn and the peanuts we were enjoying.

Vietnamese farmers are  keen to adapt to climate change by growing plants that are better suited to new climatic conditions. Meanwhile, the government would like to intensify production of high value crops on smaller plots of land. Photo provided by Tanja Havemann.

Vietnamese farmers are keen to adapt to climate change by growing plants that are better suited to new climatic conditions. Meanwhile, the government would like to intensify production of high value crops on smaller plots of land. Photo provided by Tanja Havemann.

New tools provide consistent spatial knowledge

Knitting together farmers’ desire for crops and varieties that will help them cope with climate change and the government’s goals for mitigation and economic expansion will not be an easy task. Fortunately, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative has spearheaded research with clear recommendations for activities at the farm and landscape levels that can contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation targets simultaneously. In the context of Vietnam, the challenge is to make sure that such activities are included in plans for economic development and that incentives are in place to encourage land users to adopt practices that meet the government’s and farmers’ needs.

One of the primary activities in the first phase of the LACCMA project has been to map relationships between stakeholders in the province to understand who has the power and resources to integrate a landscape approach into existing development plans. One of the outcomes will be to combine the information from the stakeholder maps with perspectives of local stakeholders that were gathered in the interviews to advise the government on the best paths for advancing a landscape approach in Ha Tinh.

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Abigail Hart is a Project Manager for the EcoAgriculture Working Group in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell  University. She researches on the ground examples of ILM initiatives to better understand the contexts in which ILM is happening as well as the institutional arrangements and governance systems that support multi-stakeholder management. 
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