Rice is critical to Vietnam's socio-economic development with the majority of rice cultivation areas concentrated in the Mekong Delta. Rice cultivation is one of the most severely impacted areas by climate change, and vice versa, the misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is causing damage to the environment and has made it increasingly difficult to shift towards sustainable rice cultivation.
Faced with this situation, many farmers in Dong Thap province have adopted the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard for sustainable rice production, that include climate change adaptation and environmental protection practices.
Pham Van Tro, 75 years old, is a farmer who is living in Binh Thanh village, Lap Vo district, Dong Thap province. Like many other farmers in Binh Thanh village, he has adopted the SRP in his area of rice field of 4 ha to increase the value of rice by applying SRP’s criteria in sustainable rice production.
Located alongside the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River, Binh Thanh village is home to 1,800 farmer households. It has a total rice field area of about 1,200 ha. From 2018 until now, Rikolto has supported Binh Thanh Cooperative and eight other Cooperatives in Dong Thap province to develop a sustainable rice value chain through its rice programme funded by the Directorate-General Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD).
Tro’s rice is going to be harvested in the next few days. Applying the SPR standard, he now only uses about 60 kilograms of rice seeds for each hectare of rice field instead of 200 kilograms as previously. Not only does he save seeds, but he also reduces the spraying frequency of pesticides from 6 times to 4 times in each cycle.
Thanks to these changes, I can reduce the production costs by about 2,9 million VND/ha. I save on input costs, reduce the negative impact for the soil and protect my health as well
Technicians of the district departments and extension staff often work with Tro and other farmers in the village to assure their compliance with the SRP standard. Tro reviews his field records periodically to compare the production costs and profits and control his farming process. After harvesting, he does not burn the straw but uses it as a byproduct. He puts the bottles of pesticides after use at the waste collection points provided by Rikolto, which are easily found in the common areas around the rice field.
Binh Tanh cooperative also signed contracts with traders and companies, hence ensuring that the SRP-compliant rice produced by its members is sold at stable and reasonable prices. “We have strived to keep the purchase of rice from farmers stable. By doing that, we hope that the farmers have more awareness about the importance of a sustainable rice value chain. By being shown the benefits of applying the SRP standard, they will not only gain economic benefits, but also favour environmental protection and the community’s health”, shared Cao Tho Truong, the Vice Director of Binh Thanh Cooperative.
By the end of 2021, 160 farmers of Binh Thanh Cooperative applied the SRP standard, on a total area of 250 ha. About 97% of farmers got an 80+ score in the SRP standard with an increase in multiple sustainability indexes, such as climate change and resource management.
Tro affirmed: “I have changed my mindset about sustainable rice farming by applying the SRP standard. Now I want to contribute more to protecting my community’s living environment while improving the quality of rice. It’s the most meaningful thing to me in my farming work”.