Agricultural innovation : multiple grounds for technology policies in the Red River Delta of Vietnam

Nguyen Van Linh

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

    Abstract

    <p>Food security, a lingering concern although is not as critical as in the past, remains one of the most important strategies for agricultural development in Vietnam. In conjunction with this strategy, productivity is very much a concern of the government. However, growth in agricultural productivity is not easy to achieve, particularly for a severely land-constrained region such as the Red River Delta (RRD). The level of crop intensification is already high and given the competition for land from infrastructure development, urbanization, industrialization, and the production of fruit and other crops and aquaculture, there is little room for maneuver.</p><p>With the limited scope for land expansion, increasing yield and crop diversification are two challenges to the sustainability of the present rate of growth in the agriculture. With respect to rice yield, Vietnamese farmers have benefited by applying findings from international research to their local conditions, but over time, the benefits to be gained will be less and less. If the attempt were limited further to improving productivity of food crops, the difficulties would be compounded. Even under the most favorable conditions of growth, the living standards of those engaged in agriculture with a small size of land holding is not likely to be comparable to there of their counterparts in the urban areas, or to take them out of poverty. Thus, while rapid agricultural growth based on higher productivity will help raise farm incomes, the farmers will require alternative employment opportunities to break out of poverty and increase their living standards. Farmers need to be given sufficient degrees of freedom to be able to choose to improve their lives in ways that are different from what they have been doing, which is primarily growing rice. Therefore, one of important options is the diversification of the rural economy.</p><p>There are two possibilities for economic diversification in rural areas. The first is to diversify agricultural production. While this may be construed as conflicting directly with the objective of food security, this construction is based on equating food security with food self-sufficiency. The second possibility is to diversify the rural economy away from an overwhelming reliance on agricultural production. If adequate employment in the non-farm rural sector is generated, then issues such as rural-urban income inequality and rural poverty lose some of their significance, at least in those areas with reasonable infrastructure. But in recent years, the generation of rural non-farm employment has depended heavily on the performance of agriculture.</p><p>The RRD is a typical case with respect to diversification and sustainable development of agriculture in Vietnam. In this region, rice is still one of most important crops. It is planted twice in the year and followed by winter crops where possible. The farmers are facing the problem of a very low average amount of arable land available per household (0.3 ha). During the last years, in comparison with other regions, rice yields in the RRD have been recognized to be "reaching the ceiling" - according to farmers. However, the decline of rice price in the marketplace and increasing family demands for better living conditions has faced farmers with new challenges of low incomes.</p><p>With respect to technology development and extension, during the last decades, many efforts have been made by government institutions to assist farmers to resolve problems of low productivity in the region. The operation of intensification programs with a series of recommendations based on technical measures has contributed to the increase in food crop production. The development of true potato seed production in the winter season is one example. In order to improve farmers' knowledge of crop production, the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program has been operated since early 1990s. However, those efforts, with their strong emphasis on rice production, do not always prove advantageous for farmers.</p><p>Contrarily, the increase of cash crop production and the development of new farming systems are of major interest of farmers in the region to resolve problems of low incomes. The expansion of winter crop production and changing land-use systems in rice fields are seen as two strategic decisions of farmers in the RRD to cope with scarce natural resources and low-income problems. Farmers in the region are very active in responding to market signals by adjusting their cropping patterns and enterprise mixes, unless constrained by policy and by physical, agronomic, financial and market factors. The successful case of farmers in Nam Thanh district in changing "flooding-land" with low potential for rice production into new farming systems with fruit trees and aquaculture shows farmers' capability in innovation.</p><p>This study looked at farmers' innovation processes in the densely populated RRD, and at official models of agricultural innovation, to develop theories to underpin technology (agricultural research and extension) policies of Vietnamese organizations. The work is based on the hypothesis that the innovation theory currently underpins agricultural technology policy in Vietnam does not adequately reflect the dynamic processes that take place in the field in the context of the (new) open market economic system. The findings may be useful for people who are working as policy-makers, research and extension managers in seeking new approaches to improve their work to meet farmers' needs.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Wageningen University
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    Award date28 Mar 2001
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789058083876
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

    Keywords

    • agriculture
    • farming systems
    • crop production
    • innovations
    • agricultural production
    • agricultural development
    • technology
    • development
    • sustainability
    • vietnam

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