Writer: Nguyen Ngoc Son, Project Officer for Land and Agriculture, GIZ Vietnam
For more than two decades, small-scale rice farmers in Dong Thap and An Giang provinces in southern Vietnam have found a way to reduce the investment costs in getting rid of pests and weeds with the help of their valuable feathery companions: wild birds and ducks.
Mr. Nguyen Xuan Thai, a 41-year-old small farmer, is one among many others who feels really happy to see these animals in his 2.5-hectare rice field.
“I love these animals. There are a lot of them here. They eat snails and pests, which in turn have great benefits of decreased costs because chemical inputs are not needed,” said Mr. Thai from Dong Thap province.
“We do not kill them here. We protect them,” he added.
Several wild bird species feed on golden apple snails that eat young and emerging rice plants.
“I conserve the wild birds at the very early stages when rice is still very young and always maintain natural resources and the environment,” Mr. Thai shared his thoughts.
Mr. Thai’s rice fields are also home to over 5,000 domestic ducks. The ducks, Mr. Thai said, have a high affinity for seeds made by weeds that grow rapidly just before the harvest.
Their waste released into the fields also improves the soil fertility, which later results in higher yields.
“I love seeing this every morning,” he said, looking at his rice paddy fields that are filled with dozens of wild birds.
From April to July this year, local farmers and the farming cooperatives in the Mekong Delta had joined the training on Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard and have been working on sustainability issues under the project called: Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA).
BRAI Project, which carries on to phase II, aims to improve market access for resource-poor rice farmers in four provinces of Vietnam – Can Tho, An Giang, Bac Lieu and Dong Thap.
“It is a good chance for rural farmers to access the sustainable techniques. All cooperative members will practice the suitable rice farming techniques to improve product quality to meet the sustainable requirements,” said Mr. Nguyen Thanh Khoa, 38, farmer leader of Thuan Tien Cooperatives, considering biological pest control an ideal sustainable practice.
The training, supported by the BRIA project, advised Vietnamese farmers to adopt the SRP’s rice cultivation standards, which consist of 41 requirements covering a set of priority topics such as improved productivity, food safety, effective use of water, nutrients and pesticide, biodiversity, community, greenhouse gas emission, labour rights and ethics.
Since May this year, over 1,400 farmers from eight cooperatives were intensively trained to pass on knowledge built around the concept of the SRP.
48 master trainers, who are technical staffs of the Sub-Plant Protection Department and Extension Services under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will pass on knowledge of the SRP modules to at least 3,000 farmers.