|Sustainable farming: Farmers put great hope in international certificated programmes for green products. — VNS Photo Thai Ba Dung
Inland farmers are getting accustomed to ‘clean' growing techniques, methods that have been certified by international environment organisations. Positive results have shown that farming this way is sustainable. Thai Ba Dung
Besides the traditional ways of planting trees (growing, watering, fertilising and harvesting) farmers living across the Southern provinces of Viet Nam are now applying new global methods: noting all the details of a growing plant.
On a hot day in May, Nguyen Nam Hoa, living in My Thanh Dong Hamlet, Duc Hue District of Southern Province of Long An sows the last line of her paddy field that meets the Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practises) standards.
In this last harvest, Hoa is one of 60 farmers taking part in the GAP rice producing project to study and export a new type of fragrant rice called ITA-RICE. Previously, most farmers planted rice based on their experiences. But now they meet the new standard's requirements. "Even the smallest detail needs to be taken note of, like using hygienic toilets or having private trash bins in the house," says Vo Van Hiep, a farmer in My Thanh Dong Hamlet.
At present, there are four coffee growing programmes in the Northern Province of Dak Lak: the sustainable developing programme of coffee (4C), the coffee's global certification programme (UTZ), the coffee programme of fairtrade labelling organisation (FLO) and the tropical forest's coffee programme (RFA).
"Planting internationally certified coffee combines import and export companies with international coffee roasting companies. The coffee bean's origin will be examined from A to Z by those enterprises," Nguyen Van Sinh, deputy director of Dak Lak's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says.
Pham Van Tien, technology assistant of UTZ in Viet Nam, explains that all of its companies lead farmers to improve the quality of their coffee, from avoiding the use of pesticides to using labour more efficiently.
Nguyen Dang Que resides in Hamlet 3 in the central province of Dak Lak. He says that previously he used to make coffee based on his experience, so the risks were high.
Having pursued the FLO programme, Que says he had to follow rules of planting that were taught by experts before. By doing so, his coffee beans developed stronger and more supple. Each day, Que records all of the work he has done in his garden so that the experts can examine the results at the end of the month.
In the area of central province of Dong Nai, lots of households now plant cacao trees in the UTZ method. Ninh Quang Son, living in Tan Phu Province's Tai Lai Commune, says he has learnt a lot from the UTZ. "When taking part in UTZ, farmers are able to access all modern farming techniques like using fertiliser and pesticides to make the harvest more effective and economical."
Farmers have always complained about the low prices they get paid, no matter how productive their harvests are. But now, their problems are solved when they shake hands with global certification organisations.
Le Minh Ton, head of Hung Loc Commune, says: "Normally, cacao's price is VND3,900 per kilo, but cacao with UTZ certification is 4,100 dong per kilo, meaning the farmers get a bonus of 200 dong. More importantly, when you enter UTZ, you get a sustainable price and reduced transport fee. The productivity of each household reaches 20 tonnes per years, twice that of those who have not joined UTZ.
Still, one thing bothers domestic farmers. The consumption of Global GAP faces limitation and unsuitability, plus the high certification fees have made farmers withdraw from the project.
"The application of VietGAP and Global GAP are considered indispensable to increase profit for Vietnamese agriculture products. So what we need to do now is reorganise the large scale production with the participation of different parties," says Nguyen Van Sanh, director of Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Development Research Institute.
Under the development strategy of the Vietnamese cacao industry, up to 2020 there will be 100,000ha of cacao with a total production of 100,000 tonnes. This production is too little compared with the world's cacao production. Therefore, experts says that the quality of rice or cacao can not compete with world's market. Instead, domestic enterprises can publicise the product's image, quality and eco-friendliness to create their own labels.
"Enterprises which are implementing VietGAP or GAP have problems finding customers and need support of farmers to continue producing under GAP and not to let them return to the old methods while continuing to seek output for the products," says Nguyen Van Hoa, Deputy of Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. — VNS