Farmers debate their options in a changing climate

31 July, 2015 by (comments)
Residents of Ma village face multiple climate challenges. Credit: G. Smith / CIAT.

Residents of Ma village face multiple climate challenges.

From cold snaps to intense rainfall, changing weather in the last two decades has not gone unnoticed by residents of Ma climate-smart village in Vietnam’s Yen Bai province. But weighing up options to adapt to changes and build resilience on village farms is not straight-forward.

“This water used to be a stream flowing from the mountains,” said one farmer, pointing to a small patch of water among the green rice fields. “Now because of soil erosion and water scarcity, it’s just a pond.”

He rattles off a list of other changes over the years: declining soil fertility, deforestation and extreme heat followed by cold snaps affecting crop yields of rice, cassava and other crops.

Farmers need to adapt by changing what they grow or the way they cultivate the land. But being “locked in” to local markets – for cassava, fish or timber for example – requires changes within a wider, dynamic context.

Social and cultural considerations also need to be taken into account. For example, labor requirements for switching from cassava planted with eucalyptus to macadamia nut trees grown with forage strips will be different. Will it mean more work for women or men, or both? What tasks will change, and do farmers have time to take this on?

Researchers from the Climate Change, Agricultural and Food Security program and farmers in Ma village have now weighed up different options for tackling climate risks specific to farming systems in Ma village, the first of three Climate-Smart Villages in Vietnam to launch priority setting activities.

A short-list of potential solutions – or technologies – will be applied within the ten kilometer-squared landscape around the climate-smart village. These intervention will tackle a myriad of challenges within the complex landscape – from the top of the hill to the bottom.

Discussions are part of a region-wide program to build farming systems which are resilient to extreme weather events, seasonal shifts and related climate change risks across Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam with important implications for food security and income generation.

Biophysical and socio-economic constraints will be prioritized, with systematic field surveys and spatially explicit assessments of crop suitability combined with participatory action research, to pull together a portfolio of best options for adaptation which can ultimately be scaled out across larger landscapes.

Lam Thi Minhn was among farmers attending the discussions.

Lam Thi Minh was among farmers attending the discussions.

Mrs Lam Thi Minh, a eucalyptus, livestock and cassava farmer, was among farmers listening to and discussing research interventions. “The most interesting technology is planting grass hedgerows on the field which we can use to feed our livestock and fish,” she said.

“Planting the grass hedgerows will provide us with forages to feed our fish, which we can sell for money. This will help save the labor of searching for forages for the fish, which is difficult and takes a lot of time. Planting will also provide us with more forages, which means we can raise more fish and increase our income,” she added.

The technologies will be whittled down to a short-list of options following a farmer vote, and will be analyzed by researchers in the coming weeks. Click here to see the Flickr album, credits: G.Smith/CIAT. The full report will be uploaded soon.

For more information contact g.smith [at]

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