Rice straw management remains to be one of Vietnam’s biggest agricultural challenges. On average, 60% of the straw generated from rice production in the country is burned in the field every year. The burning of what amounts to 20 million tons of straw annually is dangerous and not environmentally sustainable because it increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which leads to environmental pollution. This could cause respiratory problems in humans and emanate a thick cloud of smoke that causes serious vehicle accidents.
To discuss best practices and policy recommendations on sustainable rice straw management, a workshop was organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Hanoi, Vietnam, 05 June 2018. The workshop is aligned with the three-year BMZ-IRRI Straw Management Project, and aimed to present the project’s research outputs on effective rice straw management technologies and practices for improved livelihoods, sustainability, and low environmental footprint in rice-based production systems.
According to Martin Gummert, leader of the Straw Management Project, there are several best practices that the country can adopt to scale up its rice straw management. From science-based evidence, business models were developed for off-field straw management technologies, rice straw-based composting, mushroom cultivation, and rice straw-based cattle fodder.
Furthermore, Dr. Nguyen Van Hung, a scientist working on the Straw Management Project, presented the sustainable rice straw value chain, piloted and developed within the project. He identified gaps and bottlenecks in the value chain, and stressed the need to improve the linkage among rice industry actors and add value to sustainable rice production.
Dr. Bui Quang Dang, head of the Department of Science and International Cooperation of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS), emphasized the potential of rice straw as biomass resource to produce fertilizer and renewable energy, and material for mushroom production and feeding livestock. However, he mentioned the several challenges in promoting sustainable straw management in the country, such as gaps in knowledge and policy, lack of capital investments, and insufficiency of pertinent research data.
An exchange of ideas followed through an open forum where the participants emphasized the importance of localizing practices to address the unique biophysical (e.g., farm size, changing weather) and socioeconomic characteristics (e.g., existing agriculture practices, market availability, government support, and policies) of the different agro-ecological regions in Vietnam.
To address these concerns, the participants were given an activity where they were asked to identify existing gaps and recommend actions on policy, research, and extension, which support sustainable rice straw management. Recommendations include conducting more location-specific research to test technological applicability, developing innovative products and evaluating business models, implementing capacity building activities for various stakeholders, strengthening the national extension initiatives to support scaling out, reviewing and improving related national and local government policies, and mobilizing resources both from the government and private and international development sectors.
The workshop was co-organized with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and VAAS, with support from the CGIAR Research Programs on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and on Rice. It was attended by decision-makers from national and provincial government agencies, local and international researchers, members of the academe, representatives of farmers’ groups and cooperatives, and other stakeholders.
For more information about the Straw Management Project, contact Martin Gummert (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nguyen Van Hung (email@example.com).