VN aids sustainable growth on Mekong

HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc will lead a Vietnamese delegation to attend the third Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from April 4-5 at the invitation of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen. The event, themed “Joint Efforts and Partnership towards the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Mekong”, will create an opportunity for countries to review the operation of the MRC over the past four years and work to realise sustainable development goals.

Việt Nam has actively participated in regional and international organisations such as the MRC, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Forum. This stands alongside participation in the United Nations (UN), the World Water Forum (WWF), the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the International Rivers (IR). The country also has enhanced co-operation with department partners such as the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to enhance effective management of water resources in the Mekong River.

Việt Nam hosted the second MRC in HCM City in April 2014. In 2015, the country held a panel discussion on water security within the framework of the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU-132) in March, and an international workshop calling for joint actions in water resources management as part of the Asia-Europe Meeting in June that year.

Within the MRC framework, Việt Nam has worked with member countries to push the MRC Joint Committee to issue a statement on prior consultation for the Pak Beng hydropower project, calling on the Laos government to step up measures to mitigate the cross-border impacts of the project.

With the support of Lao and Cambodian experts, Việt Nam completed a study on the impacts of Mekong mainstream hydropower on the Mekong Delta in 2015 and joint research on sustainable development and management of the Mekong River basin in 2017.

In April 2014, Việt Nam became the 35th member of the 1997 UN Convention on Non-Navigation Uses of International Watercourses. Việt Nam was the first country in the MRC to join the convention, which came into force in August 2014.

Việt Nam is currently persuading other ASEAN member nations to join the convention to strengthen legal mechanisms to facilitate the management and sustainable development of water resources in the Mekong River. The country has also promoted the protection and effective use of water resources in regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the US Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), the Mekong-Japan Co-operation (MJ), the Mekong-Korea Co-operation and the Mekong-Lancang Co-operation.

The 4,800km-long Mekong River flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Việt Nam. Its basin spreads over 795,000 square kilometres with 65 million people in the four countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Việt Nam living in its proximity.

The Mekong Committee was established in 1956 under the auspices of the UN to co-ordinate aid and manage resources in the river basin. In 1995, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Việt Nam signed an Agreement on the Co-operation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River and set up the MRC as a replacement for the Mekong Committee.

The MRC holds its summit every four years. The first MRC summit was held in Hua Hin, Thailand in 2010 and the second one took place in HCM City, Việt Nam in 2014.

Source: Vietnam News

Sustainable agriculture project raises farmers’ profits by 14 per cent

The Việt Nam-Sustainable Agriculture Transformation Project (VnSAT) in the Mekong Delta has helped raise farm profits by 14 per cent after two years of implementation, according to Đặng Minh Cường, the project’s deputy head. Speaking at a recent conference held in Cần Thơ City by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cường said the project had helped profits rise from VNĐ33.1 million (US$1,464) per ha to VNĐ37.1 million ($1,627) per ha. Many companies have provided guaranteed outlets for 23,000 of the total 50,000 ha covered by the project. Last year, more than 60,000 farmers have taken part in the VnSAT project and were trained in sustainable rice cultivation. Forty-four farmers unions, associations and other farmer groups in the Mekong Delta region were given a total of $13.5 million in funds from the World Bank to buy equipment, materials, and other items. However, Nguyễn Thanh Hùng, vice chairman of Đồng Tháp Province’s People’s Committee, said many farmers had not applied the cultivation and production techniques that had learned during the project. Hùng said the project staff should try to raise this figure and encourage use of advanced machines. The province is working with a company specialising in providing these machines such as a three-in-one machines that harvest, fertilise crops and sprays permitted chemicals on fields. Through these machines, they have been able to reduce the quantity of rice variety from 70 kilogrammes to 80 kilogrammes per ha, compared to the targeted number of 30 to 40 kilogrammes, he added. Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Quốc Doanh said he agreed with the World Bank’s suggestion mechanise rice production. From 2018 to 2020, regional authorities should focus on reaching the project targets so the Government can achieve results in its agricultural restructuring programme. VnSAT began in December in 2015 in seven provinces: An Giang, Đồng Tháp, Hậu Giang, Kiên Giang, Long An, Sóc Trăng and Tiền Giang, as well as Cần Thơ City, and the five Central Highlands provinces of Đắk Lắk, Đắk Nông, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Lâm Đồng. The project is expected to help increase the number of agricultural products with export value worth more than $1 billion, including rice, coffee, pepper, rubber, cashews, wood, fruit, tra fish, shrimp, and cassava. With total capital of $301 million provided by the World Bank, the Vietnamese government and the private sector, the project aims to use advanced technologies in rice production on 200,000 ha for 140,000 farmers, raising profits by 30 per cent per ha. It is estimated that the total added value for the entire region will be $60 million per ha. In the Central Highlands region, the VnSAT project provided advanced technologies to 63,000 farmers for use on 69,000 ha. The total added value is expected to be around $48 million to $50 million for each year from 2015 to 2020. This year, VnSAT continued to offer training techniques in cultivation and production for farmers. Their organisational staff of VnSAT will also be trained in administration, screening and evaluation methods.

Bến Tre to boost Xiêm coconut exports

BẾN TRE — The southern province of Bến Tre plans to develop its renowned Xiêm coconut exports by increasing its market value and researching farming technologies and techniques.

Bùi Dương Thuật, director of Mekong Impex Fresh Fruit Company Ltd, said that despite Bến Tre Xiêm coconut receiving a geographical indication (signs to indicate that a product originates from a specific region and possesses its associated qualities) on March 17, it did not help improve the product’s competitiveness in markets abroad.

He said that Bến Tre’s coconuts still could not compete with Thailand’s coconuts, due to their higher quality and cheaper production costs. As of March 22, Thailand coconuts were sold at US$0.89 per coconut at supermarkets in California, while Bến Tre coconuts, which are considered to be of lesser quality, were sold at $0.6.

Bến Tre plans to increase its coconut’s brand power by creating a network between coconut farmers and businesses, reducing the cost of productions, providing funding for studying technology and techniques in coconut farming, as well as increasing land for coconut farming by 20 per cent.

Farmers are also urged to work with co-operative groups and abide to VietGap standards in their farming to ensure higher quality coconuts.

Bến Tre is famous for its coconuts, having around 70,000 hectares of land for coconut farming. Around 600 million coconuts are grown every year, yielding VNĐ5.4 trillion annually.

Its coconuts are sold in several foreign markets, such as Canada, US and Australia.

Source: Vietnam News