Commune sets climate change example

Farmers in a commune in the Mekong delta province of Kien Giang have improved agricultural production after learning about climate change, scientists said at a conference held by the Mekong River Commission recently.
Farmers in a commune in the Mekong delta province of Kien Giang have improved agricultural production after learning about climate change, scientists said at a conference held by the Mekong River Commission recently.

To Quang Toan, deputy head of the Southern Institute of Water Resources Research's Department of Training and International Co-operation, said the unusual weather changes in recent years, partly contributed by climate change, had affected production in the Mekong Delta.

"There was an increase in unusually hot days and unusual rains in the delta during recent years. The unusual rains in the delta in March 2009 or January last year caused huge losses to farmers who cultivate vegetable or flowers in the region," he said.

Since 2003, there have been no high floods in the delta, partly due to climate changes that have resulted in low rainfall and because of upstream water dam.

The low rainfall and the low level of water from upstream dams had contributed to salinity intrusion, Toan added.

Community-based action plans have been adapted to climate change conditions in Binh Giang commune in Hon Dat district of Kien Giang province.

Since 2005, the commune's paddy yield increased, thanks to the local government and people who developed and carried out action plans to adapt to climate change.

Toan, who took part in the survey of Binh Giang, said about a decade ago, residents in the locality had limited awareness about climate change and sea level changes and its effect on farming.

Before 1996, the commune of 3,660 households did not have a flood control system and had no facility for salinity intrusion prevention, such as a sluice gate.

Farmers had only one main rice crop each year. Salinity intrusion, acidic water and drought caused significant impact to their farm.

Between 1996 and 2000, a flood control system was implemented. The T5, T6 and 8,000 canals contributed to the improvement of water resources and soil conditions.

Five years after that, the locality completed a salinity prevention system and farmers here had two to three rice crops a year, and farm land was expanded.

Farmland stood at 5,400 ha in 2004 and expanded to roughly 22,000ha last year.

Since 1996, besides developing canal systems for releasing water to the sea, Kien Giang province in general and the commune have received benefits from other projects carried out by the local government, including tap water supply, transport system development, and projects to enhance community awareness about climate change.

However, there was still a problem of salinity intrusion related to the operation of the sluice, cultivation and drought conditions, he said, adding that the annual yield increased to 116,000 tonnes last year, from 25,000 tonnes in 2004.

"Residents in the commune now like the dyke and irrigation systems in their localities. Many families have rotated cultivating paddy, instead of aquaculture previously," Toan said, adding that the land for cultivation had been expanded thanks to climate change adaptation.

Mangrove forests have not developed well and there are only 165 ha of protective forest.

"We have done a survey in the commune in 2010, with the aim to record experiences and build a climate change adaptation model, which will be applied to other areas with support from international institutes."

The local residents' awareness about climate change and rising sea levels improved after information programmes were offered by the local government.

Climate change adaptation in Kien Giang province is a matter of urgency as most people live in low-lying areas vulnerable to rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as storms and floods.

The adaptive capacity of local communities has been enhanced by mainstreaming climate adaptation management across planning and development processes, by increasing resilience of infrastructure and livelihoods, and by providing high quality information.

The Mekong Delta, which is flat and low, has a total area of 3.9 million ha, of which 2.4 million hectares are agriculture land.

The main rice bowl of Vietnam, which contributes 40 percent of the national food outputs, and more than 85 percent of annual exported rice volume, is considered one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change./.

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