Việt Nam secures double benefit from fighting desertification

June 04, 2024 - 18:59
The desert area in Việt Nam is considerable but with the implementation of fundamental and strategic land protection measures, such as afforestation, land use and farming incomes are both improving.
A farmer tends to grapes in Thuận Quý Commune, Hàm Thuận Nam District, Bình Thuận Province. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — In the combat against desertification, Việt Nam has made significant steps forward, successfully preventing land degradation and bringing economic benefits to farmers.

This year’s World Environment Day (June 5) is themed 'Land restoration, desertification and drought resilience' and aims to unite countries around the world in restoring land, preventing desertification and improving drought resilience to slow down the climate change process. It aims to protect natural habitats while improving livelihoods and food security for billions of people worldwide.

Land degradation accelerates climate change and biodiversity loss and also contributes to drought, forest fires, involuntary migration, as well as the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

Phạm Văn Điển, Rector of the Việt Nam National University of Forestry, says desertification is the final stage of land degradation. Farmland degradation in Việt Nam is divided into four levels: the land at risk of degradation – about 6.7 million ha, the one showing signs of degradation – about 2.4 million ha, the land already degrading – about 1.3 million ha, and the area already degraded and turning into desert – several thousands of hectares.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Việt Nam has made significant achievements in desertification prevention. From the modest forest coverage of 27.8 per cent in 1993, the rate has increased to 42 per cent at present, compared to a world average of 31 per cent.

The forestry sector has continued implementing strategies, programmes, and plans to improve forest quality and ecosystems by protecting natural forests (10.3 million ha) and planting large-timber forests (over 300,000ha at present, which needs to reach about 1 million ha by 2030). These moves not only help protect natural habitats and enhance soil fertility, but also supply materials for forestry product processing and trading.

In 2023, the World Bank, for the first time, paid US$51.5 million for Việt Nam's forest carbon credits – a reward for the country's efforts in protecting and developing forests and combating land degradation in the north-central region. That turned Việt Nam into the first in East Asia and Pacific to receive a payment for emission reduction results from the WB’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

Land degradation prevention and control are not limited to the forestry sector but have also been carried out in agriculture. Developing ecological and organic agriculture is an appropriate approach that is being promoted, and also reflects an environmentally friendly economic mindset.

Điển stresses that it was thanks to tireless efforts, the cultivation of such plants as dragon fruit, grape, garlic, and macadamia in arid and degraded land areas, is generating profits for farmers. Many coastal areas in the central region are also undergoing rejuvenation transforming from 'sand' to 'soil' with the endless green of phi lao (Casuarina equisetifolia) and keo lá liềm (Acacia crassicarpa) along the coastline.

A view of a protected forest in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province. Việt Nam has gained significant achievements in desertification prevention, including raising the forest coverage from 27.8 per cent in 1993 to 42 per cent at present. — VNA/VNS Photo

Desert agriculture in Bình Thuận

Bình Thuận Province, located on the southern coast of the central region, is characterised by a hot-dry climate, arid land, along with surface desertification and saltification in many places, seriously affecting local people’s life and livelihoods.

Faced with those realities the local authorities have taken steps to help farmers gradually adapt to adverse impacts of harsh natural conditions and climate change. In particular, the model of desert agriculture applying modern technology has taken shape and obtained encouraging results.

The province is promoting large-scale farming connected with preservation, processing and sales in value chains. Models of production coordination for key products have been formed and utilised drip irrigation technology to save water.

With abundant land reserves and a water area large enough for expanding cultivation, livestock farming and aquaculture, Bình Thuận has boosted industrial and semi-industrial animal husbandry at the same time as controlling diseases and protecting the environment.

Farm economy has been facilitated to green vacant land areas and bare hills, tap into uncultivated areas and improve the ecological environment. A number of businesses and farm owners have applied scientific and technological advances to develop beef and dairy cattle farming, monitor animal health, detect and prevent animal and plant diseases and harvest, process and preserve agricultural products such as meat, eggs and milk.

Over the past few years, the local irrigation system has also received more investment. As a result, with over 1,800km of irrigation canals, Bình Thuận now basically has sufficient water supply for agriculture.

Aside from its own efforts, the province is also calling for more investment in smart and hi-tech agriculture projects that apply automated and water-saving irrigation technology, biological pest control measures, as well as technological advances for post-harvest preservation so as to build value chains in line with international standards, adapt to climate change and generate high economic values. — VNS