Saving water, saving livelihoods in the Mekong Delta

On the occasion of World Environment Day on 5th June this year, we highlight one of our SUMERNET projects that is trialing an innovative agricultural water-saving technique in several ethnic Khmer villages located in the upper Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The project aims to reduce seasonal water insecurity problems, address climate change concerns and improve livelihoods for these relatively marginalized communities.

Oung Kham Oo By Oung Kham Oo - Jun 11, 2021
Saving water, saving livelihoods in the Mekong Delta

The theme for this year is an “Ecosystem Restoration” to prevent, halt, and reversing the environmental damage-to go from exploiting nature to healing nature. This year World Environment Day will also kick-off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of the mountains to the depth of the sea.

Reflecting on this year’s theme of “Ecosystem Restoration”, we are highlighting one of our projects in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam,  “Water Savings Innovations & Water Insecurity Reduction”. The project aims to reduce seasonal water insecurity problems, address climate change concerns and improve livelihoods for these relatively marginalized communities.

Dr. Pham Huynh Thanh Van, project lead from An Giang University (AGU), Vietnam explained that the project is attempting to introduce alternative wet and dry technique on rice cultivation in the highland areas in Tinh Bien district, An Giang province, Vietnam.

She said: “Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is a water-saving technology that farmers can apply to reduce their irrigation water consumption in rice fields without decreasing its yield. To be honest, AWD is not a new technique. It has been applied in many countries in Asia including in Vietnam. But it is used individually (farmers used this technique cultivate in a separate field). The novelty of our project is to apply it at the community level, to engage more farmers cultivating at the same place to adopt this technique.

“A water tube/pipe made of PVC is usually used to practice the AWD method. The main purpose of the tube is to monitor the water depth. The tube allows measuring water availability in the field below the soil surface.”

This research project is funded by the Swedish international development cooperation agency (SIDA) and implemented as a joint action project by the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET) and An Giang University (AGU). It was implemented during the period of 1 October 2020 until 30 September 2022.

“When the project is finished, we see benefits at the household level. The rice farmers can work together for sharing variable water adapting to impacts of weather risks, helping vulnerable farmer groups have more change to meet their water demand. Another thing is that An Giang province is an upstream province upon the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, the less water being used in An Giang, the more water is available for farmers downstream. So, this technique is an entry point to evaluate and discuss wider water security issues to the marginalized communities- the main point of our project – water-saving innovation,” Dr Van explained.

 

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Building research for policy towards sustainable development in the Mekong Region

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