STRATEGY FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COLLABORATION OF ACIAR IN VIETNAM 2017–2027
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has supported research collaboration in agriculture, forestry and fisheries with Vietnam since 1993, valued at A$100million across 170 projects. Vietnam is now in the middle of a major transition from lower to middle income status, but still faces many challenges to ensure sustainable and equitable growth. In response ACIAR and its counterparts in Vietnam have developed a ten year strategy for research collaboration (2017-2027) to address the increasingly complex problems and opportunities facing smallholder agriculture, fisheries and forestry systems in Vietnam.
This Strategy acknowledges how the relationship between ACIAR and Vietnam has grown from donor-recipient to partnership, to coinvestment and possibly, through this period, to trilateral collaboration. The Strategy expresses the desire of both parties to join with the private sector, wherever possible, to catalyse opportunities for the rural and urban poor through inclusive agribusiness systems. It also highlights a strong focus on transformational opportunities for women in research, agribusiness systems and onfarm.
This Strategy not only establishes the most important priorities for research collaboration between ACIAR and Vietnam but also reaffirms the importance of building research capacity through well-designed projects set in the context of longterm partnerships.
Towards the end of the implementation of this strategy, both parties will commission a review of the partnerships, the strategy and its outcomes to inform decisions about future collaboration after 2027.
In this strategy, the term ‘agriculture’ should be read to include crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries and “agricultural research” includes the supporting areas of research that are essential to developing equitable and sustainable livelihoods in those sectors (especially policy, agribusiness, natural resource management and social science research).
The research themes outlined in this Strategy will contribute to the following ten-year goals:
(i) Long-term international partnerships in research and technology development established and sustained.
(ii) Improved capacity of Vietnam researchers, research managers and development partners to support sustainable and equitable growth through agricultural research.
(iii) Improved skills, livelihoods and incomes of smallholder farmers, including ethnic minorities in mountainous areas of Tay Nguyen and Tay Bac, supported by knowledge networks that allow profitable engagement in domestic and international markets.
(iv) Improved human health and nutrition through research on integrated farming systems, nutrition-sensitive agriculture and one health.
(v) Improved quality and safety of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit for domestic consumption.
(vi) Deeper knowledge of markets that assist in prevention or mitigation of economic shocks for participants in the agricultural supply chains.
(vii) Reduced inputs of chemicals and fertiliser per unit of production with a cleaner environment, safer produce, improved soil health, and more profitable sustainable production systems.
(viii) Improved resource use efficiency, producing more food with fewer resources.
(ix) Practices implemented and policy-makers informed to manage climate change impacts in agriculture.
Six research themes will form the basis of research collaboration under this Strategy to 2027. These will guide the direction of the research collaboration noting that it is likely that not all the priorities identified here can be funded.
Theme 1: Food safety
Food safety is an increasingly important issue in Vietnam and is currently one of the highest priorities for the community and Government of Vietnam (GoV). Consumers have long held concerns over the safety of food, be it domestically produced or imported. Future priorities need to focus on research related to production along the supply chain that allows traceability to the location of production and processing, with appropriate safe cultivation and processing techniques. Analysis of policy and effective organisation and management to support safe production and processing practices is also required.
Research collaboration under this theme is expected to build on earlier projects with a focus on food safety, particularly in pork supply chains in northern Vietnam, vegetable production (principally in northern Vietnam), and improving the quality of fisheries products. Additional research opportunities are:
(i) Biocontrol methods for pests and diseases in horticulture and crops.
(ii) Assessing food safety risks and developing clean and safe meat supply chains.
(iii) Improved chemical use in vegetable production and supply chain management.
(iv) Improved biosecurity, including diagnosis and management of animal diseases, particularly zoonoses, and antimicrobial resistance.
(v) Analyses of policy interventions and possible regulatory reforms.
Theme 2: Climate Change
Of great concern to both the GoV and Vietnam farmers is maintaining production in the face of climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. Across Vietnam the impacts have already been severe, such as through increasingly prevalent droughts and saline water intrusion in delta areas. Adaptation to such changes will require innovation through research, such as climate-smart farming systems and the development of new varieties with greater tolerance to climatic stresses. New knowledge, technologies and approaches will be essential for farmers and policymakers.
Specific research under this theme could include:
(i) Breeding and selection for adaptation to biotic and abiotic stresses, including salt-tolerant varieties (e.g. rice), drought and heat-tolerant varieties (including fruit trees), and breeding of plantation tree species resistant to drought in the central coastal area of Vietnam.
(ii) Policy and economic analysis of opportunities for alternative crops and production systems in areas subject to sea level rise and saline intrusion.
(iii) Development of ‘low carbon’ technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gases, and maximise the effective exploitation of waste from crop and animal production, and aquaculture.
(iv) Analysis of the economics of land-use change and adoption of new varieties and management practices, as well as of possible policy interventions.
(v) Filling animal feed gaps, particularly during winter in the Northern Highlands and the dry season in the Central Highlands and South.
Theme 3: Improving soil fertility and the efficiency of crop and crop-livestock systems
In Vietnam, as with other countries, the condition of agricultural land has declined markedly in the past 20 years, through a combination of unsustainable cultivation practices and intensive production sustained by excessive use of chemical inputs. The GoV seeks to develop agricultural technologies that help smallholder farmers produce more and better quality food from less land, labour, water and inputs. Linked to this are opportunities for improved integration of livestock and crops delivering greater diversity of income and more efficient use of resources.
Research collaboration under this theme will focus on improving soil health, developing biocontrol and integrated pest management practices, reducing costs of production and reducing post-harvest losses. Research may also focus on sustainable intensification of smallholder livestock production in crop–livestock systems, with a focus on cattle, goats and pigs.
Specific research under this theme could include:
(i) Developing better skills to analyse nutrient deficiencies in fruit and vegetables and developing appropriate solutions.
(ii) Improving the quality and value of temperate fruits.
(iii) Improving the quality and quantity of safe vegetables for both increasing provincial consumption (and increasing health and nutrition) and supply to major markets such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
(iv) Improving the sustainability of cropping systems on sloping land (including animal feed and transition to perennial tree crops where appropriate).
(v) Improving the resource use efficiency and profitability of livestock production in crop–livestock systems in mountainous areas.
(vi) Improving plant nutrition and crop management for non-rice crops in the Mekong Delta.
(vii) Diagnosing and managing soil-borne diseases, and reducing chemical inputs in intensive cropping systems in the Central highlands (pepper, coffee).
(viii) Adding value to crop and animal production waste including use as fertilisers and soil conditioners.
(ix) Developing commercial medicinal plants and non-timber forest products.
(x) Improving the availability and sustainability of groundwater resources in intensive production areas.
(xi) Developing water-saving irrigation technologies to reduce production costs, and reduce contamination of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
(xii) Developing organic agriculture, organic fertilizer products, nano-fertilizers
Theme 4: Improved market knowledge, access to markets, and skills for better policy analyses
As Vietnam increasingly focuses on regional and international agricultural markets, farming and fishing families are becoming dependent on more-complex supply chains and market forces. Even in remote areas, farmers are no longer simply supplying their local market but are irrevocably linked to import and export markets for agricultural commodities, and influenced by regional market trends.
Research collaboration under this theme will enable the emergence of inclusive agribusinesses by understanding global supply chains and how producers can costeffectively meet the standards and market requirements for higher value markets. This will require enhanced animal and plant health, traceability and quality control to meet regional and international sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. It will also require a better understanding of the impacts of new regulatory regimes and macro or micro policies.
Specific research under this theme could include:
(i) The role and form of producer organisations, including improving their access to technology, finance, inputs and markets.
(ii) Improvement in agrifood value chains through understanding efficiencies and constraints to improving value and policies that provide incentives for increasing investment. Piloting value chains which has linkage with global value chains. Research towards application and synchronization of Vietnam's standards with the global standards.
(iii) Policies to support agricultural restructuring, analysis of factor markets (such as land, water and labour, capital and technology).
(iv) Regional market analysis for certain commodities where Vietnam has a particular opportunity, commencing with beef and cassava, vegetables, fruits, coffee, and pork.
Theme 5: Improving the value from forests
Forestry research has played a critical role in the development of more than 1 million hectares of acacia and eucalypt plantations. Early and sustained investment by ACIAR in tree-breeding technologies helped Vietnam to become a leading country in the region in development and application of improved plantation varieties and systems. Despite this success, pests and diseases continue to threaten the resource and there is unmet potential for value adding. Vietnam’s furniture manufacturing industry employs thousands of people and provides increasing export earnings. Vietnam still imports a large quantity of round logs for processing. Research is required to support the investment and management of Vietnam’s plantation resource to produce logs of suitable quality to replace imported timber. In some regions of Vietnam, agroforestry systems and the restoration of degraded forests are a high priority for protecting the environment and improving farmer incomes. Research on non-timber products is also needed for improving sustainable production and value.
Specific research under this theme could include:
(i) Sustainable development of plantations, forest health and value-added processing.
(ii) Sustainable and economic rehabilitation and management of native forests.
(iii) Sustainable development of non-timber forest products.
(iv) Forest product marketing, to improve the utilisation for high value products.
(v) Sustainable agroforestry systems on sloping lands.
Theme 6: Aquaculture
The aquaculture sector in Vietnam has grown rapidly to become a major source of export earnings and remains an important source of protein for domestic consumption. With Vietnam’s long coastline, significant opportunities are still to be realised for marine aquaculture. With a decline in the efficiency of wild-caught fish products, there is a desire from GoV to support livelihoods through aquaculture for coastal fishing families. Some aquaculture systems in Vietnam are highly commercial with significant private investment but other species have the potential for increased smallholder participation in commercial aquaculture.
Specific research under this theme could include:
(i) Developing genetic and breeding technologies, with potential target systems being shrimp (black tiger (monodon), whiteleg (vannamei) and freshwater), lobster, marine fish (especially pompano, grouper), bivalves, abalone, sea cucumbers and seaweeds.
(ii) Developing production technologies for sustainable production of seafood at small scale and low cost. Potential target systems include seaweed, pearl, and sea cucumber.
(iii) Co-management of waterways and water rights.
(iv) Building better capacity for disease diagnostics and response.
(v) Monitoring, assessing and improving environment management in areas of
intensive aquaculture production.
(vi) Developing novel and cost effective feeds for aquaculture.
GENDER AND EQUITY
Cutting across all the research collaboration covered in these themes is a commitment from both parties to promote women’s economic empowerment, including among ethnic minorities. Agricultural activities are grounded in men and women farmers’ everyday gendered lives and practices, which cannot be investigated through a commodity.
This may include research on social and gendered dimensions of agriculture as well gender within agricultural research projects.
The partners have agreed that the research themes above are best focused in the following three regions:
The Mekong Delta region is Vietnam’s single largest agricultural region with significant production of major commodities including rice, fruit, and fisheries. The region is, however, particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Although rice is the dominant crop, the region is increasingly diversifying into intensive production of other commodities. There is an urgent need for research to support farmers with climate adaptation strategies.
Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands)
The Central Highlands is a source of intensively produced high value cropping (especially coffee, pepper, cocoa and vegetables) and tree crops (including timber, rubber and cashew). These systems are challenged by a range of problems including pests and diseases, sustainability of current intensive systems, product quality and access to markets. The region is also home to a large number of ethnic minorities which Viet Nam is keen to support with profitable and sustainable farming practices.
North- West Highlands
ACIAR-supported research has established strong research partnerships in the North- West Highlands, principally in Lao Cai, Lai Chau, Dien Bien and Son La provinces. This region is home to some of the remoter and poorer populations of Viet Nam and to a large number of ethnic minorities. The focus has been on selective breeding and development of plantation trees (acacia, eucalyptus), agroforestry systems, vegetable production and marketing, beef cattle production with H’mong farmers in Dien Bien, and temperate fruits and maize systems on sloping land.
In addition to these three geographies, some research will require a more-national footprint. Fisheries research will predominately focus on marine aquaculture, and hence have a mostly coastal footprint. Forestry research will initially focus on agroforestry and natural forest regeneration research in the North-West highlands. Other research on plantation forestry and value added processing may occur across the country.
A key component of the future collaboration will involve Vietnam scientists in collaborations with other countries to address issues of common concern.
ACIAR will continue to support capacity building through on-the-job mentoring and training of research staff within research projects and through formal skill training programs (both short courses and broader cross-project skills training). The parties agree to apply the prinicple of promoting women’s economic empowerment to the capacity building we will jointly sponsor.
ACIAR’s competitive scholarship program for higher degree study in Australia (the John Allwright Fellowship), will support research topics that are aligned with the priorities identified in this strategy.
ACIAR will continue to support leadership and management training in research through its competitive John Dillon Fellowship.
PARTNERSHIP AND FUNDING
Apart from the strong relationships that ACIAR will broker between research agencies in Vietnam and agencies in Australia and internationally, projects will seek to build broad-based partnerships with the private sector and non-government organisations (NGOs). In some cases, these may be research partnerships (such as involving private sector innovation in value chain research) and in others the projects will engage early with next users of research.
There are only a small number of independent agricultural services providing agricultural knowledge to farmers in Vietnam. ACIAR will seek opportunities to support the emergence of high quality private service provision to smallholders using the knowledge and technology outputs of ACIAR projects.
ACIAR will support public-private partnership forums between the two countries to share research results and implement public-private partnership initiatives.
A significant new initiative under this strategy is that ACIAR and the GoV will seek to develop jointly funded projects. Specifically, over the duration of this strategy the partners will seek to achieve a minimum of two projects per year jointly funded by Vietnam and Australia, with at least 75% of projects jointly funded by the end of the strategy. Jointly funded projects have the potential to increase the alignment of ACIAR funded projects with GoV-funded projects, increase the number of projects in the collaboration, and increase the ownership of projects by Vietnam partners.
Principles to guide coinvestment include:
(i) For bilateral projects, ACIAR will fund all expenses related to international expertise, including salaries, travel and research operating expenses for activities in Australia and in Vietnam.
(ii) Vietnamese partners will contribute to research operating expenses in Vietnam, either in part or in full, if the research aligns with the national science and technology program.
(iii) The annual Country Partnership Dialogue should identify project concepts with potential for funding and alignment of project development and approval processes.
(iv) Budgets should be structured to to match the roles and responsibilities of each of the implementing partners.
MONITORING, EVALUATION AND REPORTING
Over the duration of this strategy, ACIAR will organise an Annual Partnership Dialogue (APD) to:
(i) Review the ACIAR program in the context of this strategy.
(ii) Present achievements from the previous 12 months.
(iii) Consider whether the program is fully implementing the strategy.
(iv) Select projects to be planned as co-funded projects.
(v) Share an awareness of related research and development activities.
ACIAR and Vietnam partners will formally review this strategy after seven years to inform the potential, nature and focus of collaboration beyond 2027.
ACIAR has long-established processes for project monitoring and evaluation which will continue to be applied to projects funded under this strategy. Peer and external review processes will be applied to project design, mid-term reviews and final reviews involving both Vietnam and Australian/international reviewers.