Public-private co-operation helps Mekong farmers overcome double challenge

October 30, 2020 - 15:00
With four months to go for Tết (Lunar New Year) 2021, Pham Thanh Tri, a farmer in Son Dong District in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre, is happy since he will be able to harvest around one tonne of pomelo for the festival.


Farmer Pham Thanh Tri (first right), hamlet 3, Son Dong district, Ben Tre province talks about the losses of his pomelo garden and hope for resilience thanks to CarePackage and trainings from Bayer and NAEC. Photo by Bayer Courtesy

 BEN TRE — With four months to go for Tết (Lunar New Year) 2021, Pham Thanh Tri, a farmer in Son Dong District in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre, is happy since he will be able to harvest around one tonne of pomelo for the festival.

For many farmers in this Mekong agriculture hub, one tonne is not a big figure, but for a small orchard like Tri’s, this is a dream since just a few months ago it had suffered from a double impact: salinity and COVID-19.

Tri said due to the salinity he had to cut down many of his pomelo trees.

“Salinity caused many diseases for the pomelo trees, from root to the tree and to the fruit. I and many farmers in the area had to cut down the trees because they could not grow.”

Tri’s worries evaporated the day he began to receive support from a public-private co-operation project carried out by Government agencies and other parties.

Under it, Tri used the knowledge and methods that he was trained to treat pomelo diseases instead of cutting down the trees like he used to do a few months ago.

Tri’s story is clear evidence that innovation, science and collaboration are key to not only fighting the Covid-19 pandemic but also to addressing current and future challenges faced by farmers.

Since the day the Mekong Delta was affected by salinity and the COVID-19 pandemic, many public-private co-operation programmes have been developed to help farmers overcome challenges.

These have demonstrated their importance and efficiency.

Thanh (full name to be checked), a member of the National Agriculture Extension Center (NAEC), said: “Public-private partnership is a good method that helps us take advantage of outside sources of funds in addition to Government funds. This co-operation also helps achieve the Government’s target of supporting farmers who are facing difficulties.”

“Co-operation with private parties also helps us access advanced technologies and reduce trial times because all of these technologies have been tried before.”

According to Thanh, public-private partnership projects help farmers restructure crops, use new seeds and breeds and develop new plants.

In Tri’s case, he was selected to be a trial farmer who will benefit from the “Better Life Farming” which is part of the “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative by Bayer to help smallholder farmers in the Mekong Delta sustain their production activities and respond effectively to adverse situations such as drought, saltwater intrusion and COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the initiative, the company late last week, in collaboration with NAEC and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s international co-operation department, organised a training session for farmers in Ben Tre and distributed for free “Better Life Farming” care packages to the first 100 smallholder farmers.

It is to be followed by other provinces within the scope of the project in the delta.

Tri said: “Despite the fact that this year's crop was severely affected by COVID-19, severe drought and salinity, I and other smallholder farmers in Ben Tre Province are still working hard to revive farming activities, especially for the upcoming Lunar New Year season.

“With the training sessions, we hope that next season we will get better yields in a way that is sustainable and better for the environment.”

In addition to immediate support, in the medium and long terms the programme is also providing smallholder farmers training related to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and modern agricultural technologies. 

Bayer and the NAEC have conducted a series of train-the-trainer sessions in several provinces under the project.

In future train-the-farmer sessions will be conducted with the support of NAEC networks in the provinces.

These sessions include classroom training to 20,000 farmers and virtual training to 60,000 farmers to teach farmers farming techniques from sowing to harvest, provide advice on crops, disease and pest management.

Taking long-term sustainable agriculture to next level

While Bayer’s “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative is committed to making a difference at the local level, it is also making sure that farmers in Viet Nam are part of the global conversation topics on sustainable agriculture. 

Fittingly for an international programme that aims to support 100 million smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries by 2030, the virtual event Future of Farming Dialogue 2020, held from September 25 to October 13, offered stakeholders from academia, industry and media across the globe the chance to join a discussion on the opportunities for and challenges to sustainable agriculture.

“The agricultural industry is no stranger to adversity – from flooding to drought to pest infestations – and COVID-19 is yet another stark reminder of the need to create a more sustainable and resilient food system to ensure food security,” Liam Condon, president of the crop science division of Bayer, said.

“Innovation, science and collaboration are key to not only solving the pandemic but also necessary in agriculture to resolve the present and future challenges facing farmers.”

The focus of the discussion is how to build more resilient food systems, accelerate sustainability-driven innovations and develop new business models that can reward farmers for their services to the eco-system.

Condon said about Bayer’s sustainability commitments: “Especially in challenging times, it is our responsibility to help ensure food security and reduce our environmental footprint. We also need to help farmers do the same by providing the products, services and technologies needed to produce enough food while using less resource and caring for the environment.

“The key to this is innovation and this is what we continue to drive forward.”

Bayer’s “Better Farms, Better Lives” and its Future of Farming Dialogue series are just part of the company’s wider mission to empower smallholder farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to meet common sustainability goals.

In light of global environmental and social challenges, developing and dispersing transformational technologies remain at the core of Bayer’s commitment to creating a sustainable future free from hunger for all, it said.  — VNS