Ten years ago, farmers in northwest Viet Nam began planting trees – mango, longan, plum, lemon and macadamia nut – among crops of maize and fodder grass on their crumbling mountain slopes. The result? Visibly richer, more stable soil and a lot more products to sell at market.
Achieving this took extensive collaboration among farmers, researchers and local authorities during two consecutive ACIAR-funded projects in the region, where unsustainable farming practices like maize monocropping had kept generations of people in a cycle of land degradation and poverty.
“Hundreds of individuals contributed to the success of the project, and this cooperation was recognized in an independent assessment,” said CIFOR-ICRAF scientist Nguyen Quang Tan.
The first project explored agroforestry options for smallholder farmers from 2011 to 2016, followed by research on developing and promoting market-based agroforestry and forest rehabilitation, in partnership with Southern Cross University and the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences. With a view to long-term restoration success, the project worked with farmers to establish local tree nurseries, thereby ensuring a sustainable supply of seedlings.
Over the course of the decade, CIFOR-ICRAF developed seven market-oriented agroforestry systems that enabled farmers to diversify their products, boost income and slow erosion. Participating households, many of which were from ethnic minorities, noted that the agroforestry system was less labour-intensive, leaving them more time for family and other activities.
Established by CIFOR-ICRAF, the Agroforestry Network for the Northwest will pick up where the project left off. It aims to promote and expand the use of agroforestry as a means to restore degraded landscapes, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and enhance livelihoods and market access for local people – especially ethnic minority women.
Supported by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), FTA