Since standards for sustainable rice management practices are taking shape in the country, IRRI plays a crucial role in facilitating the implementation of best management practices through “1 Must Do, 5 Reductions” principles (1M5R: use high quality seed while reducing seed rate; water, fertilizer and pesticide use; post harvest losses). The best management practices are implemented in eight provinces in the Mekong Delta via the World Bank-funded project “Vietnam – Sustainable Agricultural Transformation” (VnSAT). In the VnSAT project, IRRI uses a multi-stakeholder Learning Alliance (LA) to critically reflect and plan for activities that will help incentivize the adoption of sustainable rice practices like 1M5R. The LA aims to create supportive alliances for farmer groups for them to be able to engage better in the rice value chain, and to adopt and manage the demands of producing marketable rice. In order to do so, a series of LA meetings and activities are conducted so different stakeholders can assess problems and create solutions that help realize the country’s vision for their rice sector.
Previous discussions among LA members identified that the lack of trust among the value chain actors is a significant bottleneck. A key issue is farmer organizations (FOs) being able to consistently follow farming contracts that implement sustainable rice production standards.
Last October 24–26, about 73 participants from farmers’ organizations, the PPMUs, and export companies participated in a learning alliance for improved rice value chains and mechanization workshop-demonstration. Matty Demont, IRRI’s Economist and Value Chain Expert, shared the latest research findings from the CORIGAP project on how Vietnamese consumers value sustainably-produced rice and how contracts can be used to promote the adoption of sustainable production standards. A group exercise was also conducted to develop a sustainable contract that responds to both suppliers’ and buyers’ needs. Demont explains, “Both suppliers and buyers went through a list of contract attributes and optimized each of them to arrive at an “ideal” contract that is profitable for both parties, inclusive and environmentally sustainable. Both parties then entered into negotiation and managed to reach consensus on all attributes. These results are promising and indicate that LA can help reaching consensus on how rice value chains can be rendered more sustainable.”
Export groups and private sector partners including Gentraco and Loc Troi Group shared their current market models and mechanisms of engaging with farmers and farmer groups. The Rynan company shared its experience in using digital farming services and engaging with their farmer clients.
IRRI’s Mechanization and Postharvest experts Nguyen Van Hung and Caling Balingbing presented research findings underlining the importance and benefits of mechanical transplanting to obtain sustainable rice. Their talk was followed by discussion and consultation among the eight provincial extension and technical officers, farmers’ organizations, and private sector partners about the potential challenges, opportunities and ways of working together with the service provider and other potential actors. The participants also had an opportunity to try a new mechanical transplanter and seeder.
A mechanical rice transplanter with built-in fertilizer applicator was tested and demonstrated in the field. The transplanter machine at the same time can apply fertilizer rates in granular form and accurate amounts with the integrated weight sensor. This machine can reduce seed rates and achieve labor saving; operational field capacity increased to 3–4 hectares per day compared with manual transplanting which requires 24 persons to transplant one hectare in a day. “There are appropriate business models to make the machine available, you should grab the opportunity to make use of the machine and maximize the benefits of it,” enthused Dr.Hung.
Participants assessed that the two events were important to bring different actors together. Luu Thi Lan from Gentraco shared that such events “Create an opportunity for partners to create linkages; they know more about the background of the VnSAT project, which can help identify entry points for collaboration.” Yanmar’s Nguyen Thi Ngoc Truc suggested that advanced technologies can also be featured in future discussions and activities like this, the LA, is a good opportunity for farmers/FOs to actively apply mechanization on their farms.”
Central Project Management Unit representative of VnSAT, Nguyen Van Da, said that “The LA workshop and mechanical transplanter demonstration are important events that will help farmer groups, agricultural staff, and other actors to create ways to improve rice production in Vietnam.”