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Fishers switch jobs as Mekong Delta dries up

Update: September, 22/2016 - 09:00
Caption: Farmers in Thường Thới Hậu B Commune in Đồng Tháp Province’s Hồng Ngự District farm fish during the flood season. — VNA/VNS Photo Tràng Dương
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — Many farmers who depended on catching fish and other aquatic creatures during the flood season in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta have switched to other jobs since the delta has not seen major flooding in recent years.

The delta’s flood season, caused by the rise in water levels in the Mekong and its tributaries, is normally between August and November.

In years when floods are high, water flows into rice fields, bringing not only silt but also large quantities of fish and other creatures.

Hồ Thành Được, who has been catching fish for more than 40 years in flooded fields in Giồng Bàng hamlet in Đồng Tháp Province’s Hồng Ngự District, said he has switched to buffalo breeding and hired labour to earn a living since he was only able to catch small quantities of fish in the last three years.

“Last year, I could not catch many fish. This year I could only catch a few for my family to eat. I could not earn any money from fishing this year.”

Giồng Bàng is one of first places to be flooded in the upstream province of Đồng Tháp.

The hamlet has some 170 households of which 80 per cent used to earn a livelihood from fishing during the flood season.

However, most have now switched to farming buffaloes, cows and eel and other jobs in recent years, according to the Hồng Ngự District Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs Bureau.

In An Giang, one of the delta’s most flood-prone provinces, people have also turned to farming eel, snakehead fish, animals or fruits.

Đỗ Văn Luôn of An Giang’s An Phú District said: “I and my wife used to catch fish during the flood season. But the floods have not come this year. I now breed 50 pythons to improve my income.”

Bùi Thanh Sơn, chairman of Phú Hội Commune People’s Committee in An Phú District, said more than 300 of the commune’s 3,000 households make a living by fishing during the flood season.

“There have been no big floods in recent years and the commune has petitioned authorities to organise vocational training courses for fishing farmers to help them find new jobs and not rely on flooding.”

Farming restructured

Trần Anh Thư, director of the An Giang Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said in the past two years the flooding has been scanty and so his department has helped people switch to aquaculture and growing crops.

Breeding eel, featherback and snakehead in ponds, which does not require much water, helps farmers control disease outbreaks.

The scale of the farming is not large but the task is easy whether or not the flooding is intense, according to the department.

It has also instructed farmers to grow other crops like lotus and water caltrop.

An Giang has also reduced the area of the third rice crop in some places and switched to baby corn, sesame, fruits and other crops.

Tống Văn Uôl of An Giang’s An Phú District, for instance, has grown lotus on his 1.3ha rice field this flood season and earned a better income than from rice.

Lotus farming has been becoming popular in An Phú. Phạm Thành Tâm, deputy head of the district Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said, “The district encourages farmers to grow two rice crops and one cash crop a year or one rice crop and two cash crops.”

Đồng Tháp Province has also restructured farming and switched to crops that require less water than rice.

Its People’s Committee is also implementing a programme to develop key local crops, focusing on corn, soy bean, sesame, and red chilly.

This year Đồng Tháp plans to grow 44,000ha of cash crops, 5,300ha more than last year.

It is also working with the Southern Irrigation Science Institute for a project to improve the livelihoods of 11,400 families living in the areas worst inundated during the flood season. They include Hồng Ngự, Tam Nông and Thanh Bình districts and Hồng Ngự town.

The project will help farmers switch from a third rice crop to farming other crops, fish, and blue-legged prawn besides helping store flood waters, according to the province People’s Committee.

In Cần Thơ, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has encouraged farmers to breed aquatic species to improve their incomes besides catching fish.

The department has also released fish fries into water bodies to regenerate natural stocks. — VNS







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