|Farmers tend lemon grass in Tiền Giang Province’s Tân Phú Đông District. – VNA/VNS Photo Minh Trí|
TIỀN GIANG — Tiền Giang Province has developed new agricultural production models that provide farmers with a reliable income to cope with climate change in its eastern districts and Gò Công Town.
They include growing rice in the rainy season and breeding shrimp in the dry season in the same field. Others include growing vegetables, dragon fruit and other crops instead of rice.
Located downstream of the Tiền River, a major tributary of the Mekong, the province is severely affected by saltwater intrusion in the eastern districts of Chợ Gạo, Gò Công Tây, Tân Phú Đông, and Gò Công Đông and Gò Công Town.
They have total land of more than 101,000ha, or 40.4 per cent of the province’s total, including 73,000ha of farmlands.
The districts, which are on or close to the coast, are normally affected by drought and saltwater intrusion for three to six months every year during the dry season.
In the past local farmers grew only rice and had modest incomes because of low yields in the dry season. With the encouragement of local authorities, in recent years they have begun to rotate rice with other crops or switch completely to fruits and other crops.
Phạm Văn Minh, who has a 3.5ha rice field in Tân Phú Đông Islet District’s Phú Tân Commune, said he has begun to alternate between rice in the rainy season and shrimp and crabs in the dry season.
He earns around VNĐ214 million (US$9,200) a year now, twice the amount from just rice, he said.
Lê Hồng Đáng of Tân Phú Đông’s Phú Đông Commune has begun to grow red chilli and lemongrass instead of rice on his 1.1ha of land.
Last year he earned VNĐ60 million ($2,570) from them, he said.
Nguyễn Văn Hải, head of the Tân Phú Đông Agriculture and Rural Development Division, said farmers there successfully grow lemongrass in rice fields, establishing the province’s largest lemongrass growing area.
The district has more than 1,500ha under the crop and an annual output of 20,000 tonnes, he said.
More than 500ha of paddies in the district are also used to rotate between rice and shrimp, providing farmers with annual incomes of hundreds of million of đồng per hectare, he said.
Tân Phú Đông has determined lemongrass is one of its key crops to adapt to climate change and provide steady incomes to farmers since it is easy to grow even in areas where saltwater intrudes.
Farmers said they could harvest 15 tonnes of lemongrass per hectare each year, earning VNĐ1-1.5 million per tonne.
In Gò Công Đông, many farmers are now using their paddies to grow vegetables and fruits to Vietnam good agricultural practices (VietGAP) standards.
In its Kiểng Phước Commune, 60 farmers grow red-flesh dragon fruit on 40ha and earn high incomes.
The commune has set up the Kiểng Phước VietGAP Dragon Fruit Co-Operative and plans to expand the area under dragon fruit to 250ha in areas contaminated by saltwater.
Cao Văn Hóa, deputy director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said in the eastern districts rice farmers have begun to rotate rice and another crop on nearly 15,000ha and grow other crops only on nearly 2,000ha of paddies in the last two years.
The districts have taught farmers new techniques to improve quality, he said.
Under the province’s plan to restructure agricultural production in eastern districts by 2025, which began two years ago, the districts will only plant two rice crops a year or rotate between rice and one other crop.
Tân Phú Đông Islet District will switch to other crops that can tolerate saltwater. The district will grow high-value vegetables and other crops and expand the models of rotating between rice and fish or shrimp.
Phạm Anh Tuấn, deputy chairman of the province People’s Committee, said the plan would cost more than VNĐ1.66 trillion ($71.1 million).
“Climate change is a challenge and an opportunity for difficult areas like Gò Công to restructure and develop sustainably.” — VNS