An organic rice cultivation, shrimp farming model (Source: baoangiang.com.vn)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - The Mekong Delta province of An Giang has targeted shifting from traditional agricultural production, which is heavily dependent on fertilisers and chemicals, to more sustainable production and organic standards, said a provincial official. 

Nguyen Si Lam, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province was focusing on environmental protection, emission reductions and climate change adaptation, and calling for more local and foreign investment in green agricultural production.

The province since 2013 has had a Jasmine rice production area under GlobalGAP standards in Chau Phu district and a bio-safe rice production area in An Phu district on 400-600 ha per year, with profits increasing for farmers, he said.

In addition, it has piloted an organic rice-shrimp model on 1ha in An Phu district, and has grown high-quality organic rice in Tan Chau town, Lam added.

All of these results have created an important foundation for the area to gradually shift from traditional production to safer and organic standards.

Despite this progress, he said the agricultural sector faced a number of challenges. 

The rice yield is very high, but farmers’ incomes are still modest, and investment in agricultural production has not been effective, with excessive use of fertilisers and chemicals. 

In addition, the quality of agricultural products has not met the expectations of consumers, who increasingly demand food safety and clean agricultural products. Imported agricultural products are also putting pressure on local products. 

The province wants, from now to 2025, to develop its strongest products, including 300ha of rice; mangoes with VietGap standards covering 500ha, of which 100ha of mango is expected to be organic; and VietGap-certified vegetables on 6,000ha, of which 1,000ha will receive organic certification.

According to Alan Broughton, Vice President of the Australian Organic Agriculture Association, Australian agriculture has much to share with An Giang province through research and training to ensure safety and efficiency in the supply chain.

The core of organic agriculture is to improve the health of farmers and consumers of agricultural products, restore organic soil, and reduce production costs.

The most important step is to change farming practices through practical experiences and short-term training courses with “hands-on experience” for farmers. This will help farmers see the benefits of organic agriculture.

The Australian Association will continue to support An Giang province to develop organic agriculture through technology transfer to bring practical benefits to farmers, especially for ethnic women and families.

Tran Anh Thu, Vice Chairman of the An Giang People’s Committee, said he hoped that Australia would continue to support the province in organic agriculture development, through short-term training courses for agriculture officials, scientists and farmers.

The first Mekong Delta Forum on Developing Partnerships Between Australia and Vietnam for Organic Agriculture Movement is one of four components of a project to promote partnership between Australia and Vietnam.

The project has four work packages.

The first package is to build capacity for three Australian Awards Scholarship (AAS) Alumni from An Giang University (AGU) in agriculture development in Australia, provided by Organic Agriculture Association (OAA), National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), Canberra Organic Grower Society (COGS), Fenner School of Environment & Society, and the Australian National University.

In the second package, the AAS alumni team from AGU, including Dr Nguyen Van Kien, Nguyen Van Thai, and Le Ngoc Hiep, will develop an organic agriculture research centre called the “Mekong Organics Hub” to promote linkages between agriculture, nutrition and public health in the Mekong Delta Region. 

For the third package, the Hub will partner with the An Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and An Giang Province People’s Committee to organise the first Mekong Delta Forum on Developing Partnerships Between Australia and Vietnam for an Organic Agriculture Movement. 

The forum aims to share the experiences of organic agriculture research and development with organic growers, organic agriculture associations, farm extension staffs, local governments, business sectors, and NGOs. It will also develop a partnership for organic industry development in the two countries. 

The fourth package is the piloting of a home-based organic vegetable farm with female Khmer farmers in An Giang province to promote nutrition and population health outcomes for the communities.

The forum in the province was co-funded by Aus4Skills Small Grants for AAV alumni and An Giang People’s Committee’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and An Giang University. It aimed to develop partnerships between Australia and Vietnam for Organic Agriculture Movement. 

Nearly 200 delegates, including scientists and organic agricultural experts, participated in the forum organised by An Giang province’s People’s Committee.-VNS/VNA