Low Carbon Rice Farming Practices in the Mekong Delta Yield Significantly Higher Profits and Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Joe Rudek1, Nguyen Van Sanh2, Tran Kim Tinh3, Huynh Quang Tin2, Tran Thu Ha1, Doan Ngoc Pha4, Tran Quang Cui5, Nguyen Hong Tin2, Nguyen Ngoc Son2, Huynh Hiep Thanh6, Hoang Trung Kien7, K. Kritee8 and Richie Ahuja1, (1)Environmental Defense Fund New York, New York, NY, United States, (2)Can Tho University, Mekong Delta Development and Research Institute, Can Tho City, Vietnam, (3)Can Thu University, Advanced Laboratory, Can Tho City, Vietnam, (4)Department of Rural Development, An Giang, Vietnam, (5)Department of Rural Development, Kien Giang, Vietnam, (6)Agricultural Extension Centre, An Giang, Vietnam, (7)Agricultural Extension Centre, Kien Giang, Vietnam, (8)Environmental Defense Fund, International Climate, Boulder, CO, United States
The Vietnam Low-Carbon Rice Project (VLCRP) seeks to significantly reduce GHG emissions from rice cultivation, an activity responsible for more than 30% of Vietnam’s overall GHG emissions, while improving livelihoods for the rice farmer community by decreasing costs and enhancing yield as well as providing supplemental farmer income through the sale of carbon credits.

The Mekong Delta makes up 12% of Vietnam’s land area, but produces more than 50% of the country’s rice, including more than 90% of the rice for export. Rice cultivation is the main source of income for 80% of farmers in the Mekong Delta. VLCRP was launched in late 2012 in the Mekong Delta in two major rice production provinces, Kien Giang and An Giang. To date, VLCRP has completed 11 crop seasons (in Kien Giang and An Giang combined), training over 400 farmer households in applying VLCRP’s package of practices (known as 1 Must - 6 Reductions) and building technical capacity to its key stakeholders and rice farmer community leaders.

By adopting the 1 Must- 6 Reductions practices (including reduced seeding density, reduced fertilizer and pesticide application, and alternative wetting and drying water management), rice farmers reduce their input costs while maintaining or improving yields, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The VLCRP package of practices also deliver other environmental and social co-benefits, such as reduced water pollution, improved habitat for fishery resources and reduced health risks for farmers through the reduction of agri-chemicals.

VLCRP farmers use significantly less inputs (50% reduction in seed, 30% reduction in fertilizer, 40-50% reduction in water) while improving yields 5-10%, leading to an increase in profit from 10% to as high as 60% per hectare. Preliminary results indicate that the 1 Must- 6 Reductions practices have led to approximately 40-65% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to 4 tons of CO2e/ha/yr in An Giang and 35 tons of CO2e/ha/yr in KienGiang. The greenhouse gas reductions in Kien Giang are the highest reductions we have been able to find in the literature. Both methane and nitrous oxide emissions were measured using chambers, on a weekly basis for methane and for 5 or more days for nitrous oxide following critical events, such as fertilizer application or soil dry down periods.