Successful slogans can make a world of difference. In Vietnam, a catchphrase for a climate-smart way to produce rice has shown small farmers how they can boost rice profitability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Bank discovered this through an Agriculture Competitiveness Project in Vietnam, which championed an alternate wetting and drying rice production technique that uses less water, reduction in application of fertilizers and management of crop residues to reduce the level of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the rice fields. Adopting this climate-smart practice required the systematic engagement of the entire community committed to draining the rice fields multiple times over a matter of weeks, something traditionally rarely done. Adopting this alternate wetting and drying technique not only helps strengthen plant roots but also reduces flooding periods which translates into reduced methane production.
1 Must, 5 Reductions
The project promoted the Government of Vietnam’s novel Mot Phai, Nam Giam (1 Must, 5 Reductions) approach to rice production—in which producers are encouraged to use certified seed (“1 must”); and achieve five reductions (seed rate, use of fertilizer, water use through alternate wetting and drying of the field, frequency of pesticide application, and post-harvest losses)—as a means to improve the overall sustainability of rice production.
In order to apply alternate wetting and drying practices for rice production it was necessary to build community confidence by working with collective farmer groups—each farm with an average size of 0.6 hectares—to take part in the new rice production technique. Farmers were trained through Farmer Field Schools taking a “Seeing Is Believing” approach. Equally important was the outreach to famer cooperatives to create community-level awareness of good water management techniques.
Successful slogans pay off
As a result of this behavior change, farmers’ upfront costs for inputs fell by 20%, and crop productivity increased by 5-10%, improving farmer incomes by up to one-third. In addition, the project’s training and extension services, provided directly to over 33,000 farmers in two provinces in the Mekong Delta for three cropping seasons, allowed the farmers to become aware of greenhouse gas emissions reduction achieved through the water management techniques.
What this could mean for the future
The World Bank Board of Directors recently approved a new project that will scale up the impact to cover all eight rice growing provinces of the Mekong Delta. By demonstrating the success of this kind of intervention in rice production, the new Vietnam Sustainable Agriculture Transformation Project (VnSAT) has the potential to be expanded to other settings (additional crop rotation from rice to non-rice crops, crop management, use of biochar and fertilizer management) to demonstrate further greenhouse gas mitigation opportunities. Moreover, this project and other similar evidence-based climate smart interventions can bring together development and climate finance to promote the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) or other interventions supporting low emissions development in countries and enhance their commitment to reduce emissions and to pilot payment for environmental services (PES).