ciifad banner

logoarrowSRI International Network and Resources Center

Home > Countries > Vietnam > Vietnam Report (2004)
Vietnam Report (2004) *
Background on Vietnam Report:

Dr. Whitten (MJW) visited Vietnam between 1-6 April to attend the Bi-annual IPM Planning Meeting of the FAO Intercountry Program for Vegetable IPM on 1-2 April; to visit SRI field activities in Hoa Binh and Hanoi provinces, and to talk to staff of the National IPM Program about SRI activities to date and those planned. He was joined by Mr Harry van der Wulp (AGPP/FAO-HQ) at the workshop and the field visits. His comments on SRI in Vietnam are based on the field visits (2004 spring season) to Hanoi and Hoa Binh provinces, written reports on SRI activities in three provinces (Hanoi, Hoa Binh and Thai Binh) for 2003 spring (January-May) and summer (June-September) seasons. His comments are also based on discussions with Mr Ng Quang Minh, DG of the Plant Protection Department (PPD); Mr Dam Quoc Thu, Deputy DG of PPD; Mr Dung, the National IPM coordinator; and Mr Le Tien Binh, IPM coordinator, PPD; Dr Le Thi Thu Hoang, FAO National IPM Expert; and Dr Elske van de Fliert, FAO Vegetable IPM Programme Development Officer....

Section 5.2 Vietnam

Norman Uphoff first discussed SRI concepts with Elske van de Fliert, FAOs Vegetable IPM Programme Development Officer in Vietnam, during an UPWARD Conference in Beijing in September 2000. Elske agreed to explore possibilities for assessing SRI within a UNDP project in northern Vietnam. Separately, NU supplied literature on SRI to Mr Bong, Vice-Minister for Agriculture, at Mr Bong's request in 2002. This followed a briefing for the Minister from Howie Bouis of IFPR. Bouis had previously been briefed by NU during the International Rice Conference in Beijing, September 2002 (this information was provided by Norman Uphoff to MJW via email).

Mr Ngo Tien Dung, the National IPM Coordinator in the Dept of Plant Protection, first discussed SRI concepts with the National IPM trainers in 2002 following a series of discussions with Mr Jan Willem Ketelaar. These, in turn, were triggered by the Lao-IRRI workshop on SRI in Vientianne, Laos in April 2002. Mr Dung then coordinated SRI activities in Farmer Clubs at 20 sites over three Provinces (Hanoi, Hoa Binh, and Thai Binh) conducting SRI trials in the 2003 spring (January-May) and summer (June-October) seasons.

Further trials were conducted during the 2004 spring season in four provinces (Hanoi, Hoa Binh, Thai Binh and Quang Nam. Sample reports on SRI trials for spring and summer 2003 seasons for the provinces ofr Hanoi, Hoa Binh and Thai Binh can be obtained from the FAO IPM office in Bangkok ( Additional reports are available but these have not been translated from Vietnamese into English. The three provincial reports are sufficient to indicate the approach being used by farmer clubs to assess the possible benefits from SRI under Vietnamese conditions.

In the three provinces (Hanoi, Hoa Binh and Quang Nam), BUCAP (Biodiversity Use and Conservation Asia Program - an activity financed by the Norwegian Development Fund) funded one SRI site, while local funds were used for a further three sites in these three provinces. DANIDA funded four sites in Thai Binh province. During the 2004 summer season it is expected that around 80 Farmer Clubs will conduct SRI trials in Hoa Binh province. While external funds are greatly appreciated by the Vietnamese Government, national and local funds invariably underpin the bulk of farmer empowerment activities. This pattern reflects the Government's strong and continuing commitment to activities with enhance sustainable production by small scale farmers in Vietnam.

All SRI activities in Vietnam to date have been coordinated by PPD under the supervision of Mr Dung, and facilitated by IPM trainers from the PP sub-departments. It is expected that this will be the principal mechanism whereby SRI concepts are evaluated in Vietnam and adapted to local conditions. Where current practices are improved as a result of farmer-led field SRI studies these will be disseminated via the strong national IPM trainer network, either into Farmer Club activities or incorporated into the curricula for FFSs for new IPM recruits.

During this mission, MJW visited SRI field sites on two occasions. Saturday, April 3, a field visit was made with Harry van der Wulp (FAO, Rome) to Hop Thanh commune, Ky Son District, Hoa Binh province where Farmer Club activities, including SRI trials, were conducted by a Muong tribal group. (The principal SRI sites in Hoa Binh could not be reached because rain made the roads impassable). On Monday, MJW visited Xoun Non commune, Dong Anh district, Hanoi province, with IPM trainer for Hanoi PP subdepartment, Mr Hong Anh.

From a plant production and protection perspective, the important conclusions from farmer-conducted SRI trials to date include:

  • Farmers have shown that transplanting younger seedlings, more quickly with less root disturbance, with greater spacings, leads to greater tiller production, more grains per tiller and higher yield (per 100 m2 plot size
  • Farmers have shown that transplanting younger seedlings, more quickly with less root disturbance, with greater spacings, leads to greater tiller production, more grains per tiller and higher yield (per 100 m2 plot size)
  • Later sowings are compensated by more rapidly growing plants, so that harvest is not delayed
  • Pest and disease incidence and severity are less, especially root disease in the spring season crop
  • Increased weed problems in those areas - but only in areas where weeds are present
  • Farmers respond quickly to the obvious advantages of sowing less seed, and reduced labor during transplanting
  • Water management was a problem but the farmers felt this was a transition problem. Once farmers in an area see the benefits of a new irrigation regime, they will be better placed to manage their pattern of water usage. Already, the 2004 spring season trials were arranged so that irrigation could be more easily managed.

From an extension/training perspective, the results to date clearly demonstrate the benefits of farmers as experts; farmers who are capable of understanding new ideas, and who are committed to exploring new ways for growing a healthy crop more sustainably and more profitably. The Vietnamese farmers were not driven by any particular ideology; nor was there any obvious institutional demarcation issues that would distract from sensible, objective, robust and rapid assessment of the counter-intuitive ideas posed by SRI practices.

Just as the FFS program in Vietnam spread rapidly between 1992 and 2001 such that 84% of the communes in Vietnam had had at least one FFS by 2001, equally we can expect to see the impact of SRI ideas spreading throughout Vietnam in the coming years. It is likely that SRI in Vietnam will not take the form of some stand alone philosophy but, instead, be appropriated by IPM farmers with facilitation by IPM trainers, and integrated with other approaches to IPM/IPPM/INM/ICM.

During the 2003 spring season, the estimated number of FFSs on rice and vegetables in Vietnam was around 2,000. Mr Dung indicated that any improvements in rice production emerging from the SRI-driven activities would quickly find their way into the curricula of the ongoing FFS program which was essentially funded by the national government and local funds - not external aid programs.

Mr Dung indicated that the SRI-inspired farmer field studies during the 2004 summer season would include two provinces from the south - Can Tho and Soc Trang. Financial support for these southern activities will come from DANIDA. Trainers from these southern provinces would discuss the outcome of the SRI trials that have been conducted to date in the north, especially with trainers from Hoa Binh and Ha Noi provinces.

SRI trials during the 2004 summer season will engage some 80 Farmer Clubs in Hoa Binh alone. Water management will be a major theme of the farmer club activities in Hoa Binh during the 2004 summer season.

Clearly, it will be important for FAO to follow up on the outcome of the projected SRI activities for the 2004 summer season to determine the impact that SRI concepts are having on how small scale rice farmers grow their crops. What are the economic benefits of reducing seed from 3 kg/sao to 0.3 kg/sao with seed costing 4,000 dong/kg? What changes to labor is required to manage crops and what are the social and economic implications of these? What are the impacts, at local level, of transplanting younger seedlings more widely spaced, on pest, weed and disease management? What is the response with traditional and improved varieties to increased fertilizer levels proposed (from 100-200 kg chicken manure with farmer practice to 300 kg/sao with SRI)? Is this organic fertilizer available? Vietnamese farmers are not so concerned about the ideology of organic versus mineral fertilizers but they are concerned about the availability, logistics and economics of a system that responds well to increased fertilizers.

Vietnamese IPM farmers have shown the capacity to assess impact of planting younger seedlings, more widely spaced and with less root damage, on disease (e.g., reduced root death in seedlings in spring crops in the north), on weed problems (which vary significantly from place to place) and on insect herbivores. The farmers are prepared to experiment with water management and manipulate very long standing traditional patterns; and they are able to do so on an area wide basis which will be necessary if significant changes to water management are warranted.

The fact that Vietnamese farmers and trainers are prepared to experiment with novel growing options and also prepared to change traditional ways where the evidence warrants this response, is a tribute to the National IPM program and demonstrates the importance of farmers being experts at growing their own crops. It also challenges the notion that the preferred way to make life better for small-scale farmers is the promotion of simple messages via the mass media, as advocated by some researchers in IRRI.

The final results for the 2004 spring season, and especially the 2004 summer season, will give a surer indication as to the relevance of SRI concepts for rice farmers in Vietnam. The capability and capacity exists in Vietnam with the expertise and experience, in participatory learning skills, in the PPD and the PP sub-departments at provincial level. This complements the large number of farmer-trainers to assess, adapt and adopt any good ideas contained within SRI thinking.

As with the FFS IPM-driven program, Vietnam is sufficiently committed to farmer empowerment that it will devote national funds to secure a positive outcome from SRI studies. However, the journey will be quicker and surer if additional external support is provided. Hence an excellent case exists for FAO to secure funding for SRI-based activities in Vietnam. These could be managed though the FAO Intercountry Program on Vegetable IPM in S and SE Asia and allocated to the PPD for disbursement to participating Farmer Clubs and the relevant PP sub-departments.

The one weakness in Vietnam is the apparent absence of a strong linkage between the countrys research community and the extension/farming community. SRI, like IPM in the early 1990s, does raise many questions where research input should prove valuable. SRI, like IPM, challenges the "current wisdom" in many areas of plant production and protection. These developments present good opportunities for closer collaboration between farmers, trainers and researchers.

It would be unfortunate if the rice research institutes in Vietnam adopt the negative and polarized attitude towards SRI shown by some researchers from the international research institutes (see the NATURE article, March 25, 2004, referred to earlier). Perhaps collaboration between farmers, trainers and the Food Crops Research Institute, located some 60km from Hanoi in the middle of rice fields, and with a tradition of farmer-orientation, might be encouraged to explore SRI concepts.

* abstracted from a separate report by Norman Uphoff.

IP logo AgNIC logo
The SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice) is supported by
Ohrstrom Foundation, The Bridging Peace Fund, Marguerite and Norman Uphoff, and Jim Carrey's Better U Foundation
  Contact Us  | SRI-Rice is associated with International Programs - CALS at Cornell University  | ©2015