Connecting Ca Mau’s Shrimp Farmers with International Markets

4:14:44 PM | 16/3/2016

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation organised a media trip as part of the ‘Mangroves and the Markets’ (MAM) project phase 1 review workshop in February, 2016. The media visit aims to highlight why mangrove restoration and organic shrimp farming in Ca Mau Province, Vietnam, is important in the context of the environmental and development challenges facing the country today.
The event is part of the “Mangroves and Markets” (MAM) initiative which aims to restore mangrove forests, introduce certified organic shrimp farming, connect Ca Mau’s shrimp farmers with international markets, and support the legal basis for aquaculture Payment Ecosystem Services (PES) establishment in Vietnam.
MAM is a regional initiative for mangrove restoration and promotion of organic shrimp certification in the coastal provinces of Ca Mau, Vietnam and Chanthaburi, Thailand. The project is supported by the International Climate Initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and implemented by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Ca Mau Province was selected because of its high-value tiger shrimp industry, and Chanthaburi because of its experience in rehabilitation of abandoned shrimp farms and in linking shrimp farmers to certified supply chains.
Over the past decades, more than half of Vietnam’s natural mangrove forests have been cleared to accommodate shrimp ponds. Ca Mau province is home to half of Vietnam’s mangroves, which play a vital role in maintaining the region’s delicate ecosystem. However, the intensive shrimp farming industry is causing devastating damage to Ca Mau’s mangroves and the environment.
Integrating mangroves and shrimp farming serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it is a form of ecosystem-based adaptation in which the mangrove ecosystem services help to increase the resilience of coastal communities to climate change, while also contributing to climate change mitigation. Secondly, mangroves play an important role in enhancing the profitability and stability of shrimp farming. The mangrove ecosystem provides a natural habitat for shrimp as well as for crab, fish, cockles and oysters, enabling farmers to diversify their income sources and reduce their vulnerability to market shocks. As the natural processes of the ecosystem are maintained, the farming model is resilient to disease and requires no feed, chemicals or antibiotics.
As the functioning of the farming system relies on ecological integrity, the shrimp produced in this system can be classified as organic. This offers opportunities for shrimp farmers to access organic certification standards. Certification can help to increase the profitability of integrated mangrove-shrimp farming using a market-based system. After comparing various certification schemes, Naturland has been selected as a suitable scheme to promote among farmers, because of its strict rules which prohibit conversion of primary forest, require a 50 per cent mangrove cover on shrimp farms and mandate regular third party audits to ensure compliance with the standard (Naturland 2014). The MAM project has been supporting shrimp farmers in Nhung Mien pilot area in complying with the standards through a training programme, and by providing technical and financial support – notably for replanting, environmental assessments and on-farm waste management facilities.
Through organic certification, shrimp farmers are directly linked with processing companies in order to increase the profitability of integrated mangrove-shrimp farming using a market-based system. In addition, MAM supports processing companies to access international organic markets. Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, the world’s leading shrimp exporter, has been committed to buying all certified organic shrimp produced by shrimp farmers under the MAM project and paying them for forest ecosystem services. The Company pays shrimp farmers VND500,000 for a hectare of planted mangroves and an extra VND3,000 for each kg of organic certified shrimp.
Over the past three years, the MAM project has trained nearly 2,000 farmer households on mangrove ecosystem, international organic shrimp certification and organic shrimp farming practices. Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services (PFES) has been made to more than 200 households, with a total amount of nearly VND300 million. Almost VND600 million has been paid to more than 500 certified organic shrimp by Minh Phu Seafood Company.
To date, nearly 800 shrimp farmer households have obtained Naturland certification and received their bonus for protecting the mangrove ecosystem, while other 1,500 households are in the process of getting certified.
Strict certification requirements, combined with capacity development and increased environmental awareness among farmers, have resulted in mangrove reforestation and protection in the project area. To comply with Naturland standards, all shrimp farmers in the project have received support from the Nhung Mien Forest Management Board for the development and implementation of an environmental management plan (EMP) in line with Naturland standards, district and provincial objectives.
From 2013 to 2015, 80 hectares (belonging to 402 households) of mangrove forest have been replanted on devastated shrimp ponds from previous decades. These results indicate that, if the right incentives and support mechanisms are in place, shrimp production can move from being a major driver of mangrove deforestation and degradation to playing a key role in mangrove reforestation and protection.
Though multi-stakeholder platforms, the MAM project has facilitated a participatory decision-making process which has generated considerable support for the project among various stakeholder groups, including subnational government institutions. Following the project’s successes, the Ca Mau Provincial Government has expressed its intention to scale up certification to 20,000 hectares of integrated mangrove-shrimp farms by 2020, which will contribute to further mangrove protection in the region. To achieve this aim, the province is committed to developing an enabling policy environment in support of sustainable aquaculture systems.
Economic incentives and secured market access are essential tools to foster sustainable aquaculture practices and promote farmers’ understanding. By establishing integrated mangrove-shrimp farming systems, which incorporate the promotion of local community resilience and strict third party monitoring, the MAM project aims to permanently reduce pressure on mangrove forests. The objective is to scale up the project to the wider region and incentivise further protection of mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta.  
In the next stage of project, the project intends to scale up the sustainable integrated-mangrove shrimp model along the coast, in order to increase the production of organic certified shrimp and incentivise further mangrove protection in the Mekong Delta. Moreover, there is an idea to explore the potential to access carbon finance, and to support the establishment a PES policy within the aquaculture sector in Viet Nam.
Huong Ly