This year, one of the Vietnam SRI partners, the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, is helping to coordinate the international Year of Rice Action (YORA), in conjunction with the Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific (PANAP). This global campaign is designed to raise awareness of threats to rice cultivation and rice livelihoods, such as genetic engineering, overdependence on pesticides and fertilizers, and unbalanced trade agreements.
Keep reading to see SRD’s press release on rice issues in Vietnam, and to watch a brief video on YORA.
SRD PRESS RELEASE
In Vietnam, rice is a giver of life and livelihood. Over four million hectares in this heavily agricultural country are devoted to paddy production, sustaining 9.3 million rice-producing households.1 These fertile fields provide the staple food for Vietnam’s 80 million residents and a major source of export earnings for the Vietnamese economy.
However, this source of life is under constant and growing threats. The impact of global climate change is seen to especially severe Vietnam, where rising sea levels are expected to inundate the two major rice growing regions, the Red River and Mekong Deltas, over the coming decades. Moreover, rice lands are threatened not just by the forces of nature, but by the hands of humans as well. Over the past five years, an average of 66,000 hectares of paddy land has been lost each year due to industrial development and urbanization.2 The figure translates into approximately 150,000 farming families displaced from their lands and livelihoods.
Aside from rice lands, seeds which are the very source of life are also at risk. Hybrid seeds are now used in 600,000 hectares of paddy land in Vietnam,3 and the government has been enthusiastically promoting their wider adoption. While hybrids have produced inconsistent productivity gains, they have come at the cost of increased fertilizer and pesticide use, reduced biodiversity and crop resilience, the erosion of traditional knowledge on seed cultivation and conservation, and a growing reliance on imported seeds. At the same time, the even greater threat of genetically engineered (GE) and corporate controlled rice seeds looms. While GE rice is not currently cultivated in Vietnam, the government is supporting the introduction of other GE crops, which could foreshadow a shift in policy on rice.
To protect and conserve local biodiversity and knowledge, the Centre for Sustainable Development (SRD) has been working since 2005 with local communities in Bac Kan province, to develop, distribute, and store their own rice seed varieties. Through Farmers’ Field Schools and the establishment of community-based Learning Centres, rice growers have learned how to free themselves from dependence on imported seeds and seed companies, while at the same time strengthening their capacity to adapt to shifting climate conditions by creating a readily available stock of local genetic resources.
SRD is also expanding its program by forging new linkages with global and national partners and advocating for official recognition and certification of farmer-developed seed varieties.
To celebrate the Year of Rice Action (YORA), SRD and its local partners in the Plant Protection Sub-Department (PPSD) will organize a day for “Praying to Emperor Shen Nong for better harvest” on April 17. The day will be a celebration of local rice cultivation techniques. Moreover, in October, SRD and PPSD will also be organizing a rice seed fair and a workshop on rice for life and livelihood in Bac Kan. Everyone is invited to the effectiveness of community-based seed management.
1 Statistics from the 2006 Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Census, available at http://www.gso.gov.vn/default_en.aspx?tabid=515&idmid=5&ItemID=8058
3 See http://www.grain.org/hybridrice/?lid=209 for more information
YORA Video (From PANAP)