After nearly 30 years of innovation, Vietnam has seen important achievements in agriculture, yet farmers do not play a significant role in industrialisation, modernisation and integration of the country.

The statement was made by the head of the Vietnam Farmers Association, Nguyen Quoc Cuong, at a workshop on the role of Vietnamese farmers, held by Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development and Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi on December 5.

"When the country suffers economic downturns, farmers usually play an important role to help keep its economy stable, but that role has become less crucial," Cuong said.

Farmers were the largest in numbers, compared with other classes in the country, and contributed the most to the country, while benefiting the least, he added.

Addressing the workshop, Assoc Prof. Bui Quang Dung from the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said the country has, over the past 30 years, seen quick development in agriculture. The material and spiritual lives of farmers has improved, while the number of poor families has been remarkably reduced.

In addition, the average income per capita of farmers in 2010 increased by 52.8 percent, in comparison with 2008.

"However, such achievements are still not on par with the country's potential in agriculture", Dung stressed.

Expressing his sympathy for farmers' difficulties, Professor Nguyen Lan Dung said that farmers now have enough food to eat, but do not have enough money.

"I have travelled to many rural areas, and numerous farmers told me that each earned only 2,000 VND (0.1 USD) per day", Dung said.

Nevertheless, there are currently many shortcomings in policies which made farmers' lives harder, he added.

Dung cited that in poor Quang Xuong commune of central Thanh Hoa province's Chiem Hoa district, there are only 9,500 families, but there are up to 500 cadres, noting that they are all unqualified.

It costs too much to pay for these cadres every month, but they, in fact, cannot help farmers in alleviating poverty.

To deal with the issue, Dung suggested applying technology and science in agricultural production, because professional farmers are a key to success.

Sharing the same opinion, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ho Xuan Hung said that farmers should be taught about agricultural equipment usage, agricultural production processes and, especially, knowledge about consuming.

"I was very sad to know that many foreigners said Vietnamese farmers were unprofessional", he said.

According to Hoang Xuan Thanh, an expert from Oxfam, education for farmers and local authorities should receive more attention to ensure the reduction in poverty continues. Community connections should also be fostered to help farmers eliminate poverty in the most effective way.

During the seminar, the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development also recommended measures to increase farmers' control in production, such as developing poverty reduction programmes and opening more economic opportunities to ethnic minorities and women.

The country should also create improved conditions for farmers to have access to credit and social security, it said.-VNA