Economic Sector

Last updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Prospect of Cleaner and Safer Agriculture in Vietnam

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2018

In Vietnam, during the period from 1990 to 2016, the actual added value of agriculture increased by an average of 3.6 per cent per year. For the past 20 years, the expansion of agricultural production has helped Vietnam become one of the five largest exporters of rice, seafood, cashew and many other items. However, this growth is also accompanied by pollution of land, water, and air.

Under the "Challenges of Agricultural Pollution: Evidence from China, Vietnam and the Philippines" theme, a report recently released by the World Bank confirms that agricultural pollution is clearly visible in Vietnam. In heavily cultivated areas, agriculture has become a major cause of soil, air, and water pollution, with an estimated 36 percent of animal waste discharged directly into the environment without treatment, causing farm pollution and affecting the quality of the water source. According to the report, the agricultural wastes seriously reduce the quality of drinking water sources in Ho Chi Minh City. A study on water resources including surface water, groundwater, and rainwater carried out in the Mekong Delta has recorded more than 12 plant protection drugs used in rice cultivation and cash crops. The concentration of these substances sometimes exceeds the safety standards of the European Commission.

Air pollution from burning straw in agricultural activities also causes high air pollution in some parts of the region.

In addition, more than 45 antibiotics are widely used in livestock and aquaculture in Vietnam. Excessive levels of chemicals in foods affect domestic food safety and hygiene and access to international markets. In Vietnam, farmers and their families have direct contact with pesticides because they lack tools or methods of protection.

In a study in 2015 in the Mekong Delta, more than half of invertebrate specimens were infected with acute toxicity by fipronil pesticides, while chronic infection accounted for 77 per cent of the sample.

The report assesses the agricultural activities, especially rice and livestock, ranked second in the cause of the greenhouse effect in Vietnam. Only in 2014, agricultural activities contributed 23 per cent of greenhouse gases.

As such, the pollutants come from both agricultural inputs and outputs. Input agents include fertilisers, pesticides and other chemical methods, drugs and feeds, fuels and plastics. In 2013, together with China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam ranked among the top 10 countries for most use of fertilizer, accounting for nearly one-third of the world's in total. The output actors include agricultural residues, water used for aquaculture and cleaning up of agricultural waste, plastic containers, and animal waste.

In this context, addressing pollution problems in agriculture can be seen as a "gateway" to achieving the country's overall sustainable development goals.
According to the World Bank, a hopeful outlook with technical solutions and a stronger political will in addressing the issue will provide Vietnam a safer and cleaner agriculture. Although there are many pollutants in agriculture, there are also many technical solutions that help improve the management of animal and plant waste and optimise the use of chemicals, plastics, veterinary drugs, and food in the agriculture. Many of these solutions also offer the opportunity to improve the quality and value of agriculture.

Ms Laura Tuck, Vice President of the Sustainable Development Department at the World Bank, said investing in pollution prevention and control is important to ensure sustainable agricultural development. Effective pollution control policies and practices can improve the profitability of agriculture and encourage the development of a competitive food industry while enhancing human health and the environment.

Pollution action can fuel new national policy priorities, including enhancing food safety and hygiene, adding value to agricultural products, and improving the quality of rations, thus attracting a new generation of farmers and food businessmen and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

The report provides a way for the public sector to improve this issue and direct resources to pollution treatment priorities, to enforce and motivate farmers with different production scales and capacities to produce food in more efficient ways, to support innovation and learn to control pollution challenge; and to restructure the agricultural sector for more sustainable growth. While pollution control requires an initial investment, there are many solutions that create the chance of success, increase efficiency and reduce negative impacts.

In Vietnam, World Bank funding will help to replicate good and innovative practices in aquaculture to improve shrimp productivity while reducing water pollution for about 100,000 hectares over the next five years. The Mekong River Delta helps improve farmers' livelihoods and resistance to climate change. In addition, Vietnam is scaling up the application of bio-gas in animal husbandry and promoting use of fertiliser and agrochemicals among rice farmers in the Mekong Delta reason.

Anh Mai

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