With suitable agroclimatic conditions, low labor costs, and good infrastructure, the Northwestern uplands of Vietnam have the potential to move from the production of low value staple crops into the production of high value fruit and vegetables. Vegetable production in the area is increasing, albeit slowly.
The change in production systems requires coordinated action on the part of farmers, input suppliers, government agencies, and vegetable traders. In 2014, Humidtropics set up an Innovation Platform on vegetables to promote this process, enhance collaboration, and build trust among the various stakeholders. AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and Mai Son Agriculture Division coordinate the Platform, which has a total of 50 members – an indication of the great interest in local vegetable production. The entire Platform meets annually, while a smaller group of core members meets quarterly. The Platform has received also support from local government organizations and CGIAR Centers.
Platform activities focus on safe vegetable production and marketing in Mai Son district, Son La Province. Through the initiative of Platform members, a safe vegetable production cooperative has been established that follows Vietnam’s Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) guidelines. Platform members have experimented with new varieties of tomato, French bean, radish and sweet pepper, jointly evaluating their performance against pests and diseases, and applying sex pheromones and other biopesticides to control pests such as tomato fruit borer (Helicoverpa armigera, Spodoptera exigua) and vegetable bean pod borer (Maruca vitrata).
Through the Platform, farmers and output dealers have received training on safe year-round vegetable production and marketing. Members joined subgroups to support their production and marketing activities. Primary processing facilities were set up where farmers can grade and label their produce, so that they can obtain premium prices. Members helped to establish new market channels – for instance, they sell vegetables on a daily basis to a local boarding school, which buys 80 kilograms of safe vegetables per day.
Through the Innovation Platform, the connections between stakeholders in the value chain have been strengthened. Platform members appear satisfied with the initiative and would like it to be maintained in the future. Although Innovation Platforms require much time and effort to establish, having a strong, specific focus on high-value vegetables helped to create and sustain interest.
Recent stakeholder interviews revealed that key priorities moving forward should focus on:
- Maintaining, strengthening and expanding linkages between stakeholders, especially with traders;
- Introducing and applying technologies for safe vegetable production, including training;
- Expanding to other locations;
- Prioritizing farmers’ support requirements because they are sensitive to many risks, i.e. labor requirements, climate conditions, pests and diseases, lower benefits, etc.
The interventions planned for 2016 include testing and applying innovation of crop integrated management, strengthening vegetable market linkages, and scaling out safe vegetable production by organizing training of trainers (ToT) courses. However, more support is needed from government offices with the issuance of policies that encourage production, the establishment of contacts with additional output dealers to sell farmers’ products, and the development of markets in order to get better prices for their products.
Blog and photos by To Thi Thu Ha, Horticulturist and Project Coordinator for Central Mekong, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center. Blog edited by Valerie Poire, Communication Officer, Humidtropics.