Thursday, 20 September 2018

My field-trips in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

First field-trip 

1.      Time

Date for the field trip: 08/06/2016 to 11/06/2016

Surveyed locations:

Vinh Hanh commune/Chau Thanh district
Vinh Nhuan commune/Chau Thanh district
Tan Lap commune/Tinh Bien district
Vinh Phu commune/Thoai Son district

              Figure 1: Surveyed locations in An Giang and Dong Thap Provinces, Vietnamese Mekong Delta.

Why I select these locations:

I pre-test the interview guide to know whether the farmers understand all questions or not. With this purpose, I carried out 8 interviews, in which 2 interviews in each area of flood water management strategy (no dike, august dike, and old/new high dike) are conducted. In the first day, I investigated Vinh Hanh commune/Chau Thanh district to carry out 2 interviews for august dike area whereas the other 2 interviews in Vinh Nhuan commune/Chau Thanh district are represent for the new high dike area. In the second day, I arrived to Tan Lap commune, a no-dike area, and Vinh Phu commune, an old high dike area, to conduct the 4 remaining interviews.

New high dike area: <10 years. Old high dike area: >15 years.
In Vinh Hanh commune, Chau Thanh district: (August dike area)

Location of interview: in their land fields
Two farmers were interviewed. One farmer (41 years old) has a field of 1.3 ha with 2 rice crops per year. Besides, he keeps an area of 200 m2 for flower (2 crops/year) and feeds ducks and eels to earn more money. He is the main labour in a family of 6 members. The other farmer (46 years old) has 1.6 ha in total, in which he cultivates 3 crops of vegetable per year (pumpkin, cucumber) in a land of 0.5 ha and the remaining land (1.1 ha) is used for rent. Besides, this farmer has a small fish pond for daily meals. Interestingly, this farmer has an experience of 21 years of rice cultivation. He transformed the farming system from rice to vegetable 4 years ago.

General: These farmers need high dikes because they think they can earn more money from the flood season. In the flood season, they ever tried to cultivate or to earn money from flood-based crops. However, they mentioned that the flood wave destroyed these cultivation i.e. floating vegetables or fish cages. They know the benefit of flood water as transporting fertile sediment and natural fish to fields but they think they have to earn money by all means; they do not care much about the environmental negative costs which could happen in the long turn. Both of them told me that the flood water is only really needed for the poor and landless farmers. They need safety for properties and people in the flood season. The farmer with rice field needs high dikes for third rice crop while the other needs high dikes to get more income from vegetable and livestock. These farmers also mentioned that they do not find the benefit from flood water as before because the sediment fertility and fish from floodwater is strongly reduced compared those in the history.

When I asked about the transformation from rice to other vegetable crops, the farmer with rice field responded that if he is supported by the authorities in terms of planting technology, loans and assured with the market consumption to get profits, he will do. The farmer with vegetable said that he satisfies with the current cultivation because his income is much more than the rice planting before. He mentioned that the vegetable garden requires more time and labour than rice, but he has a help from his wife to take care the vegetable garden. He also works as a welder.  He does not think he will transform to other system at the moment but mushroom is one of his concerns in the future because mushroom has a high value in the market. At the moment, the production from his vegetable garden was completely consumed by traders after harvesting. He is the only household cultivating vegetable in the village but he does not worry about the market if other farmers transform from rice to vegetable. He supposed that the vegetable cultivation will help farmers have better livelihoods compared to rice and he wants to share limited knowledge and help if other farmers need. However, the others, some do not have money, some do not have labour, and some do not believe the technology from this farmer to be successful with vegetable cultivation.

They mentioned that rat recently is the big problem in their crop production.

It is difficult to answer the question 22. (about the farming systems for a sustainable livelihood). They just need to maintain their current farming systems.

In Vinh Nhuan commune, Chau Thanh district: (New high dike area)
Location of interview: at farmers’ houses and the rice fields are next to their houses.

Two farmers were interviewed. One farmer (66 years old) has a land field of 4 ha and other (41 years old) has 3 ha. They both cultivate triple rice crop. They do not have additional job to earn more money.

General: This area is protected by 3-year high dikes. Farmers think they have a better profit and livelihood after the construction of high dike. First, they have good transportation and safe for their children. Second, they found they have more money from the third crop although they realised the problem from the soil degradation after 2 years. Specifically, they have to use more fertilizer and pesticide. Moreover, they know the benefit of floodwater and they really need a solution to bring the flood water to fields. However, they do not want to stop the third crop for water flooded into their rice fields because they can sell the crop production with better price in this season compared to the second crop (Summer-Autumn). This third crop, so-called Autumn-Winter crop, has less profit than the Winter-Spring crop which has the best production and price in the three seasons because of an ideal weather condition and water resources. Interestingly, these farmers told me that the market price of rice is low and unstable, it changes year by year and rice traders used various ways to get profits from farmers.

These farmers mentioned that the high dikes bring better lives to them because it is safe and they provide more work and help farmers earn more money. Floodwater is not good for farms like what it did in the history since floods now supply very little sediment and natural fish. Before the implementation of high dike, they cultivated floating vegetable or fish cage in the flood season but these crops were damaged due to the high flood wave.

When I asked about the sustainable farming system in the future, they answered that their current farming systems are preferable. When I mentioned about the profit of vegetable or cash crop compared to rice, one farmer responded that he had one year of cash crop cultivation but he failed. After that year, he kept rice cultivation until now. Regarding to fishery, he told me that the agrochemical use from neighbouring farms will kill fish in fields. One of two farmers stated that if everybody in the area will change from rice to vegetable or cash crop he may follow. He needs a system transformation for all farmers in his area because they can sell productions together and this avoids the impact of the attack of insect from rice fields to vegetable garden if he does vegetable or cash crop alone. Moreover, he worries about the labour and planting technology if he cultivates vegetables.

=>I do think they do not know the potential problems from the high dike which can strongly reduce the yields and degrade the environment in the long run.

In Tan Lap commune, Tinh Bien district: (No-dike area)
Location of interview: in the farmers’ houses

I interviewed 2 farmers, the one  is very poor and old (87 years old) and one young (36 years old) has a good living condition. The old has 7.000 m2 (0.7 ha) whereas the young has 41.000 m2 (4.1 ha). Both of them are cultivating 2 rice crops. Their fields are located in the area proposed for a construction of a “spillway” project of the World Bank.

Farmers need high dikes for third crop. They know the benefits of flood waters for rice fields but they could not earn money in the flood season. The poor needs more money from the third crop for a better life and the other wants high dikes to have a third crop in the flood season. The young has more knowledge about the negative impacts of high dikes such as the reduction in rice yield or the increase in rat population and pesticide/fertilizer yields, however, he still needs high dikes because of the benefits he mentioned. He supposed that the free time leads farmers to social issue as drinking wine with friends. Moreover, the high dikes protect his children and help go to school. He just worries about the quality of constructed high dikes and the poor management of sluices for the high dike systems.

These farmers mentioned that they do not want to cultivate floating vegetable (Neptunia oleracea or water spinach) or fish cages in the flood season because the high flood wave destroyed all these crops. They could not manage the floating crop in the condition of deep flood water level of 2-3 meters. The only work they can do in the flood season is to catch natural fishes for daily meals. The old mentioned the profit from agricultural activities is nothing in the flood season, just for daily foods but dangerous.s The young mentioned that only very poor farmers do want to catch fishes in a dangerous condition as the flood season because these farmers have no rice or food earn from the first and second crops. In addition, in recent years, floods have very less natural fish and sediment compared to those long time ago. The young mentioned the problems are from the dam construction upstream, more farmers catching fish with modern equipment, and the consequence of agro-chemical use in their fields. The young and his wife also asked me to come to this area in the flood season to see the large flooded fields which are so deep and have flood wave to cultivate floating vegetables.
When I asked about the farming systems which are good for environment for a sustainable livelihood, these farmers had different responses. The old-poor farmer selected the farm with rice combined with vegetable because this system brings much more money. He knows this because he observed the system in other regions. However, he could not do this farm because he does not have budget and labour as well as technology. If the government can support these things he will do. For the young-better living condition farmer, he responded that the current farming system with 2 rice crop is sustainable because the rice field needs flood water to improve field soil fertility. Maybe he has a very large rice field so that he can earn good amount of money for family. When asked about the vegetable or cash crop cultivation to replace the rice crop, he did not want to transform because he does not have enough labour and he mentioned rice cultivation give him more much time for other works (his wife and himself work as tailors to earn more money). In the flood season, he just wants to take care children from the danger of flood and catch some fishes for daily meals or for drinking wine with friends. He also mentioned that if the local authority supports budget and agriculture technology, some farmers with small field will transform their rice crop to vegetable.

In Vinh Phu commune, Thoai Son district: (Old high dike area)
Location of interview: in the farmers’ houses and the rice fields and fruit garden behind their houses.
I interviewed 2 farmers. One farmer cultivates 3 rice crop in a field of 1.5 ha, 500 m2 of cabbage complement with poultry (chicken, duck, and pig) while one farmer does 1.7 ha of Soursop (Annona muricata), poultry (cow, chicken, duck) and for rent additional area of 2.3 ha in other commune. The former’s land situates in 22-year high dike area (1994) and the latter’s land places in 18-year high dike area (1998).

General: These farmers supposed that the best advantages from the high dikes are to protect their safe, properties, and to create one more rice crop for work with a little profit. The farmer with fruit garden mentioned he earnt much more money from the current garden and the cultivation of triple rice before are unstable (his profit from the fruit is 10 times compared to the rice production although he just transformed this garden 2 years ago). They also informed that the benefits are for land-possessed farmers while the landless farmers have to move to big cities to earn money because they do not have flood waters anymore to catch natural fish. When I asked about the stability of the current farming systems, the farmer with rice responded that it is unstable because of the rice market whereas the farmer with fruit garden answered that his farm is very stable because of high profit.

The perceptions of two farmers are different when I interviewed about the disadvantages from high dikes. On the one hand, the farmer with triple rice mentioned that the high dikes prevented the flood water entering their fields to clean agrichemical poison, natural fish and sediment. He also realised the soil fertility is strongly degraded after the implementation of high dikes because he has to use more fertilizer. The overuse of fertilizer killed fish and reduced the biodiversity. On the other hand, the farmer with fruit garden did not see the disadvantages of high dikes since he stated that the impacts on fish and sediment reduction exists but very little. He responded that the fertility of land soil could be easily improved by increasing use of modern fertilizer and planting technology. Specifically, he mentioned the rice yields thanks to natural sediment from flood water before the implementation of high dike was lower than recent rice cultivations. Those rice yields increase significantly with the support of modern fertilizer and new variety of rice (I think his land still works well with fertilizer but the negative impact will strongly be exposed in the future and the higher yield of rice results from the new variety of rice). Interestingly, both farmers do not worry about the dike broken because they think the dike material and design makes it stable even with big floods.

When I asked about the farming system they want to continue in the future, these farmers stated that they want to keep the current farming system. They supposed that they have enough money earnt from the current farms to cover daily food and the study for children. The farmer with triple rice mentioned that he do not have money for saving because he has to take care 4 children, but they satisfy with the current living condition. He does not dare to transform the rice system to a mixed system with rice and vegetable because he has no planting technology and equipment. In the other interview, the farmer with fruit garden told me that the current farming brings a lot of benefit because it uses much less water, fertilizer and pesticide but much more profit compared to rice. He can cultivate fruit tree around years in the high dikes which help him save much more money than before. That is why he mentioned he wants to keep fruit tree garden except the market is unstable (At the moment, traders come to his garden and asked for buying all their fruit when harvesting).

Interestingly, the farmer with triple rice really needs flood water entering his field to clean the agro-chemical disposition, even he still wants to keep 3 rice crops. He really knows that the cultivating 2 rice crops is good for soil and environment. But when I asked that if the government wants to change the area into august dike region, he did not agree because this will stop the current farming with triple rice which he thought is relatively stable. He does not want to transform the system now but if the government supports loans, technology and stable consumption, he will do as long as he has more profit.

The farmer with fruit tree mentioned that he does not need flood water entering his field because the soil fertility in his fruit garden could be improved by the planting technologies and fertilizers. This is evidenced from green trees and good yields. However, he stated that if the government needs to do that to bring benefit to others, he has enough ability to build a strong private dike system to protect his fruit garden. He thought that he has experienced in rice cultivation, but when he changed into fruit garden, he wishes he could do this system many years ago. This system not only brings much more profit in economic aspect but it is also good for environment. However, he advised that farmers need to learn planting technology in advance and have a good budget for land preparation and equipment before cultivating fruit trees. When I asked him why he did not transform from rice to vegetable or cash crop, he responded that vegetable or cash crop system needs much more labour and time. The fruit garden just needs more effort in care in beginning time and gives more spare time for farmers since harvesting. Moreover, his friends who were successful with fruit gardens gave him this motivation in the transformation.

Second field-trip (main field-trip)

1.      Time

Date for the field-trip: 15/08/2016 to 21/08/2016

2.      Study site

1      Tan My commune-Thanh Binh district-Dong Thap province;
        O Long Vy commune, Thanh My Tay commune, Binh Phu commune-Chau Phu district-An Giang province;
 Thoai Son district to Tri Ton district in An Giang province.

Why I selected these locations:
Tan My commune is an august dike area in Thanh Binh district, Dong Thap province. It was selected because we wanted to know the difference between the perspectives of farmers in the province with a dominance of august dike with those in An Giang province where the dominance of high dike exists. There is about 5% of fields protected by high dikes in Dong Thap whereas this percentage in An Giang is about 70-80%. Tan My has 5 hamlets and one of them has been constructed with high-dikes for three crops per year. We did survey in the remaining areas with august dike protection. The location of Tan My is shown in Figure 1.

O Long Vy, Thanh My Tay, and Binh Phu are communes in Chau Phu district, An Giang province. These communes were selected because they contain old and new high dikes, august dikes and no-dikes. Most importantly, O Long Vy and Thanh My Tay are two communes where the program no.31[1] was implemented in the history. Therefore, we could meet farmers there to talk about the program. In which, the advantages/disadvantages and the success of the program or the difficulties and possibility of cultivating floating plants in the flood seasons were concerned.

Thoai Son district was selected because high dikes in this area were constructed long time ago. First, we took some interviews in this area in June to protest the interview guide. Now we wanted to investigate this district to talk with farmers to explore their perspective about the high dikes. Moreover, we went to Tri Ton district to talk with a couple of farmers there. In these areas, we talked with farmers on their own agricultural fields.

New high dike area: <=10 years. Old high dike area: >=15 years.

1.      Methodologies

With long experience and good knowledge of Mr. Tien, a lecturer in An Giang University, about the physical conditions of the provinces as well as social surveys, we discussed about the objective of research before we selected the surveyed areas. I first recommended these surveyed areas and Tien explained to a certain extent how we could gain suitable information in those areas. Tien has a good network of local officers in different districts in An Giang and Dong Thap provinces. These officers helped me interview farmers and we did not need to declare with people’s committee, which takes a lot of time and procedures. Therefore, I requested Tien help me to contact officers from National Agriculture and Fishery Extension Center during the survey to avoid the political bias from the information provided by farmers. The advantage when working with these officers is that farmers never refuse a talk with us because they clearly know each other. I think if these officers even join the interviews, farmers are not afraid to talk about their real opinion to us.

Mr. Tien had no time to go with me during the survey period but he introduced 5 students with good experience in social interviews to support me. They all have good and practical skills in interviewing farmers. I took a haft of day to train and guide them about objective of the research and the questions in the interview guide. We finished the training meeting when students understood all questions and skills how to gain required information from the interview guide. We also discussed about the plan and schedule of the fieldtrip in advance.

During the survey, we divided into three groups. That means we can interview three household/farmers at the same time. One student drove me. Two other groups carried out themselves in different households but I always keep a connection with them all the time. Farmers were selected randomly in different hamlets of the communes. All the interviews were recorded and responses were filled in the interview guides. I also required students to take photos of interviewed farmers and their land fields. Moreover, phone numbers of farmers were always asked for me to call later if necessary.

Details of the schedule:
On 15th August 2016, I travelled to Long Xuyen city, An Giang province to meet Mr. Tien and trained students at An Giang University.
First day, 16th August 2016, we arrived to Tan My commune-an august dike area, Thanh Binh district in Dong Thap province. During this date, 15 interviews were carried out.

Second day, 17th August 2016, when all students were busy with their class, I rent a motorbike to Thoai Son district. I did this way because I wanted to check the reality of information gained from farmers during the first fieldtrip in Thoai Son district in June. I drove along the provincial road (No. 943) and visited randomly farmers inside the field areas. By this way, I talked with farmers on their land fields without interview guides. However, I told them I recorded the interview because I cannot remember all information. To compare the truth of the stories they inform, I introduced with farmers that I was a student in An Giang University and just came to them to learn from their practical agricultural activities. Farmers were very friendly and comfortable with the talks. During this date, I made four (4) interviews in Thoai Son (Dinh Thanh and Vong Dong communes).

Third day, 18th August 2016 we interviewed farmers in O Long Vy commune, Chau Phu district in An Giang province. During this date, we did 13 interviews in Long Dinh hamlet, O Long Vy commune. I did five (5) interviews and other groups did eight (8) interviews. This area is protected by 15-year high dikes (old high dike area). During this date, I myself used more time to talk with farmers who know about the program no. 31.

Forth day, 19th August 2016, we carried out 12 interviews in Thanh My Tay commune-a new high dike area of 4 years in Chau Phu district, An Giang province.

Fifth day, 20th August 2016, we arrived to Binh Phu commune-a no-dike area in Chau Phu district, An Giang province. 12 interviews were carried out in this area. Local officer told me that this is no dike area but I think this is also august dike area because land fields in An Giang has been fully protected by august dikes and high dikes.

Sixth day, 21st August 2016, I rent a motorbike to Tri Ton province alone to carry out two (2) interviews in Tri Ton district (Tan Tuyen commune). I used the same methodology to interview with farmers as I did in Thoai Son on 17th August. High dikes in this area was constructed 3 years ago for a third crop protection. I also took many photos about dikes and crop fields as well as impressive things I saw.

2.      Interviews results

16th August 2016, Tan My commune-Thanh Binh district-Dong Thap province (august dike area)-15 interviews
Planting time
Mean rice yield (kg/1000 m2)
(kg/1000 m2)
Sept/Oct to Jan (110 days)
Apr to Jul (110 days)
(I also asked about pesticide and pumping costs etc.)

-7/15 farmers did not want high dikes. These farmers stated that cultivating rice inside high dikes would not bring more profit because it degrades soil quality, resulting in using more fertilizer and pesticide as well as an increasing damage from mouse. They supposed that they would work hard without any profit. Some farmers protested the constructions of high dike because they have to pay high investment costs (these payments took over 3 years based on their land size).

-Some farmers in this non-agreement group told us that the local government just organised a small meeting to persuade them to construct high dikes. Usually, the local government talks with a group of about 5-7 households about the benefits of high dikes but these farmers still refused. When we asked about the opinion of other farmers, they responded that many farmers in the hamlet have not agreed with the high dike construction. When they have not full agreement, the government could not implement the high dikes.

-8/15 farmers need high dikes because they want to have a third rice crop to earn more money. They do not want to be “out of work” during flood seasons. Most of them caught natural fish during flood time in the history but they mentioned that there were no flood during last three years. Specifically, the flood water level was just about some centimetres in their land fields in 2015 and in 2016, at the survey time; the water level in the land fields is nothing. The phenomenon during last three years is very abnormal. All of them know about the benefit of floods but they informed that floods have very less fertile sediment and fish over years. Because of the fluctuation of flood occurrence and the abnormal magnitude of floods, farmers always feel worried about what crops they will do in the flood seasons. That is why they need high dikes against floods to ensure a third crop to earn more money.

I think the current situation in Dong Thap province is more or less the same with An Giang province in history (about more than 10 years ago) when there was a few area constructed with high dikes (now about 90% agricultural lands protected by high dikes in An Giang). At the beginning, many farmers protested the policy of high dike construction because they did not want to pay high investment costs as well as did not want to change their current familiar farming systems under august dike protections. However, when there was an increasing number of land fields surrounding built with high dikes, farmers started changing their mind based on the continuous encouragement of local governments.
During flood seasons, farmers mostly catch natural fish by many ways. Some farmers cultivate lotus around years (but they also mentioned that mouse/rat destroyed their lotus ponds). When we asked about the planting flood-based crops (floating crops) such as water spinach, sesbania sesban, and neptunia oleracea, they mentioned about the following reasons: a) Strong wind and flood wave in a very large fields destroyed crops (the most serious problem); b) Poor equipment and technology and very dangerous to take care crops during floods; c) Work so hard but the profit is very low because if they tried, a small area could be cultivated; d) Worried about the loss due to crop failure; e) Harms from golden apple snail and mouse; f) Depends on the duration of floods and farmers could not maintain crops in a longer time.
When we asked about the transformation from rice to vegetable or fishponds, farmers answered that they do not have enough labour sources to take care those types of cultivation, which need more time to take care and technology. They stated that planting rice is a traditional and familiar crop and it gives them more rest time although the profit is low.
Some farmers wanted to feed eels but they have to learn technology. Some farmers wanted to plant chilli in the third season if high dikes are there. Most of farmers knew that the rice-based farming systems mixed with other types of crop would give them more sustainable livelihood with higher profit. However, they still selected double rice farming system at that time because they worried about the lack in planting technology and initial investment finance if changing into vegetable or cash crops/fish pond. Moreover, these farmers mentioned that the transformation needed to be applied for all farmers in the region because many problems such as different pumping schedule, crop schedule, insects etc. if their crop is unique.

I think farmers have tried many ways to earn money from their farming systems. If they find the profit and the stability of income from any crop, they will learn and want to do that crop. However, most of them have no planting technologies besides the lack of initial investment budget except those in rice cultivations. Furthermore, the instability of the market from other crops except rice (although rice has low price but it has been completely bought by traders by the policy of the nation) makes farmers afraid of changing their current intensified rice farming systems. They do not want to be risked by implementing new farming systems without seeing some successful examples nearby. That is why farmers still want to keep rice cultivation because they supposed they have a little profit from this crop. Such a profit could be much higher in case farmers have a large size of land. 

17th August 2016, Thoai Son district in An Giang province, the old high dike areas-4 interviews
I interviewed four (4) farmers in Dinh Thanh commune (2) and Vong Dong commune (2). Two farmers in Dinh Thanh commune were cultivating rice in the 8-year high dike area and 13-year high dikes have protected two others’ rice farms. They all were cultivating triple rice crops. These farmers do not know each other and their farms are located in different locations in communes.
I talked with them without interview guide forms. The content of questions, however, follows the interview guide. To make a deep interview, I kept the story following to their answers and I let them know that I recorded the conversations to learn.
Farmers in both communes were preparing lands for the third crop. They harvested the second rice crop more than 10 days ago. That is why I also asked them what they were doing on their rice fields to start the interview.
These farmers told me that at the time when the local government wanted to build high dikes for third rice crop, farmers did not agree. The main reasons are (a) farmers at that time were still happy with two rice crop per year and they did not want to change the cultivating habit with double rice, and (b) farmers had to pay high investment costs over 3 continuous years for high dike construction (based on their land size). However, after some years, when they earned money from the third rice crops, they did not want floodwater entering the fields as following the rule of “3 years 8 crops” anymore. These farmers mentioned a part from stopping the rule of “3 years 8 crops” was from the government (afraid about flood waters erode and destroy the foundations of high dikes) and another part from the requirement of farmers when they do not want to drop any rice crop. Until now, these farmers are still very happy with high dike protection.
They realized the problem from the high dikes had degraded their farm soil since stopping floodwater to rice fields. They told me that the amount of fertilizer and pesticide used for their rice crops are considerably higher than those before the construction of high-dike. However, their rice yields are still the same because they supposed they have good technology in rice cultivation. They also change variety of rice every year. They all are very confident and want to keep the triple rice cultivation when I asked about the negative impact of high dikes in the long terms.
The profit of rice is not high but for them, they think they can earn money and can take care rice fields with a limited labour source. They just need to rent some landless labours to spray rice fields. They also mentioned that rice would not bring much money but enough for them without risks as other crops such as vegetables/fish/cash crops. The problem is only the unstable and low rice price decided by traders but they are not worried about “the failure of rice productivity” or “rice could not be sold”.
When I asked them about the benefits of floodwater with fertile sediment and natural fish, they all responded that those sources are less and less in recent years. Moreover, the livelihood in flood seasons during the time of without high dike protection was very hard/difficult. Before the high dike implementation, they always worried about their second rice crops destroyed by floods, especially worried for the safety of their children and properties. They could be destroyed anytime in high flood seasons. The trade-off from benefits from floodwater is lower than the benefits of high dike investments, they told.

Figure 2: Farmer Le Hong Cang (above) and his eel house (under)
When I asked about the flood-based farming cultivation in the flood seasons before dike heightening, these farmers also informed that most of them caught natural fish by many ways. Nevertheless, the number of fish and fertile sediment have been reduced over years due to flood magnitude, hydro-power development upstream, and many fish catchers. Natural fish is abundant with large floods. These farmers had the same opinion that some floating vegetables were applied in the flood season before the high dike construction but was very difficult and dangerous and just enough for daily food. Strong flood wave and wind destroyed their floating plants anytime, especially in the large floods 2000, 2001, and 2002.
One of these farmers has 4 hectare of land. He told me that he raised four (4) children by the money earnt from rice cultivation. He is proud of taking care his children with university graduation. He stated that planting rice cannot help him get good profit as vegetables or cash crops but with this crop, only one (1) labour (himself) in a family of five (5) members can take care the four (4) hectare land. He just rents machine in land preparation and a person to spraying insect. This farmer agreed with the rule of “8 crops 3 years” because it will help his land soil recovered.
These farmers do not want to transform the current triple rice crop to other cash crops, fruit tree or fish. They mentioned the following reasons: a) lack of investment budget with large land size, technology, b) low land, c) labour, d) could not do alone because the negative impacts of rice fields around, e) worried about the loss, f) rice bring less profit but not worried about the crop failure and the outcome to market.

I think the impact of high dikes is not quite serious in minds of farmers at that time. With the technology applied, farmers still can use fertilizer and pesticide to improve their soil fertility to maintain good rice yields. They do not take care about the health effects caused by these chemical toxic as well as the land soil not be used for planting anymore in the future. They want to earn money by all means and rice is the most suitable option (low price but is ensured to be bought, does not need many labour time, easy to cultivate due to its traditional crop, many farmers do in the same regions, and low and large land size they have).

19th August 2016, Thanh My Tay commune, Chau Phu district in An Giang province, the new high dike area (4 years)-12 interviews
Planting time
Mean rice yield (kg/1000 m2)
(kg/1000 m2)
Nov to Feb (110 days)
Apr to Aug (110 days)
August-Nov (110 days)
(I also asked about pesticide and pumping costs etc.)
Farmers agreed that they have leisure time when they cultivate rice although this also depends on the period of rice growth. If farmers have large fields, their income from triple rice cultivation is good.
Net profit (interview guide results) in average is about 1.2 to 2 million dong/1000m2/crop (52-92 USD/1000m2/crop). If a farmer has 3 hectare, they can get a net profit of 60 million dong/3 ha/crop. This is a good number for farmer condition.
Farmers feel very happy with high dikes. They have more safety for people and properties, especially for children. The transportation and market connection is much more convenient and they have a third rice crop to increase incomes. Moreover, they have many options in agricultural activities with high dikes and do not worried about flood damages at all. Farmers also do not worry about dike broken.
Totally, farmers think they have more advantages with high dikes compared to the time without high dikes. Triple rice inside high dikes is acceptable although some of them mentioned about the low buying price, which is usually decided by traders and rice companies. They supposed that the agricultural policy of the government in buying rice for farmers was only beneficial for traders and rice companies but not for them. They need a better policy that can directly increase the income of farmers cultivating rice.
The interviewers asked about the disadvantages of high dikes and farmers fully knew about the discontinuation of natural fish and fertile sediment. This decreases the rice yields if they do not use more fertilizer and pesticide. However, most farmers do not worry about the problem and they think they can manage. They will use chemicals and apply planting technologies such as using rice straw to cover soil for an improvement. They supposed that they get higher profit from triple rice compared to double rice cultivation. They mentioned that if the problem were more and more serious, they would accept the rule of “8 crops 3 years”. However, they prefer triple rice crop every year.
I also asked about the time when the government persuaded farmers to building high dikes. Farmers also told the same story: at the beginning, most of them did not want high dikes, they did not want to have third crop because they were familiar with double rice crops inside august dikes. Moreover, the costs (over 3 years) of high dike investment of each farmer were high compared to their incomes at that time. Government also put the rule of “8 crops 3 years”. However, later, when farmers could earn more money from the third rice crop at the first time they did not want the rule of “8 crops 3 years”. Until now, farmers are cultivating three (3) rice crops every year.
Some farmers supposed that the selling price for the third rice crop is higher than two first crops so that farmers like to do this crop. They think this higher price results from the demand of government at that time. I think the price of rice depends on the specific time equivalent to the market price. Moreover, if traders buy the fresh rice late, they aim to reduce the weight of rice seeds and reduce the price of rice.
Most farmers caught natural fish in the flood season before the time high dikes constructed. The farmers with better economy did not do anything during the floods. Farmers mentioned that at the time they still cultivated in august dikes, they always worried about the loss of rice production caused from floods. They worried about the change in schedule of Summer-Autumn crop. Fish catching in the flood seasons just for daily food and their lives were very hard. During that time, they spent money earnt from the first and second rice crop. Above all, they worried about the safety for their children. One farmer told me that he even could not sleep during the flood season because he was scared everything destroyed by floods after one night. Sesbania sesban and Neptunia oleracea (water mimosa) are two popular floating crop some farmers cultivated at small scale in the history. But only farmers having hidden place planted these crops because strong wind and wave destroyed them (I had an deep interview with a young farmer about his cultivation of the floating crops in the flood season before the high dikes constructed, please read following sections of this report). Today, Sesbania sesban is still grown on the bank of the rice field.
Most of farmers selected two rice crops mixed with vegetable will be their choice in the future if they have ability or a support from the policy of government.
Mouse is not a problem for farmers in the new high dike system.
20th August 2016, Binh Phu commune, Chau Phu district in An Giang province, the august dike area -12 interviews
Planting time
Mean rice yield (kg/1000 m2)
(kg/1000 m2)
Nov to Feb (110 days)
Apr to July (110 days)
(I also asked about pesticide and pumping costs etc.)
Main agricultural activities: double rice, eels, some vegetable/cash crops with water melon, chilli etc.
11/12 farmers wanted to have high dikes to cultivate the third rice crop to increase their income. Only one interviewed household protested the construction of high dikes because he supposed that the high dike construction is costly and degrade his land soil fertility to increase production costs. No profit will be received from high dikes, he said.
All farmers know the impacts/disadvantages of high dikes such as mouse/rat biting rice and degrading soil fertility resulting to high production costs of fertilizer and pesticide. However, they still want high dikes because a) more safety for people and properties and convenience in agricultural production; b) earn more money from the third crop; c) low floods to no floods in recent years with much less fish and fertile sediment; d) free in the flood season and they did not know what to do to improve their incomes.
Main agricultural activities in the flood seasons: catching natural fish by all mean. Some farmers cultivate floating crops: water lilies, neptunia oleracea, and fish net. However, they also mentioned about the serious problem caused by golden apple snails. These crops are only suitable with average and small floods.
When we asked about the difficulties of crop cultivation in the flood seasons, farmers responded: a) strong wind and strong flood wave destroy crops on land fields (some can do in the rivers, canals or place not impacted by strong wind or wave); b) Do not have equipment; c) very dangerous; d) no technology and finance to implement at large scale; e) work too hard but very less profit, just for daily food. Some farmers told me that if the floods are the same every year with the same water level they will try to maintain and develop the floating crops. Nevertheless, the flood magnitude could not be anticipated, then farmers feel unsafe to cultivate.
One farmer, as known as a good farmer in the region he said, has been cultivating eels for long time. He told me he could earn a lot of money (compared to rice) from three (3) houses of eel. Actually, he is a landless farmer but he learnt feeding eels from his practice. Until now, he taught many landless farmers to raise eels and some of them are successful. It is noted that he could raise eel around year on his house yard without the entering of floodwater on land fields as other rice farmers. This could be a farming model for poor and landless farmers.
I think most farmers do not have technology in cultivating floating crops in a part of total field during the flood seasons. They learn by doing. That is why they were usually unsuccessful at the first time although they tried a lot and wanted to earn money by all mean.
Strong wind and strong wave destroyed their floating crops if farmers cultivate on the large land fields. That is why farmers told me that some farmers succeeded with their crops because they have good place on canals or land fields not impacted by wind and wave. The dependence on flood magnitude or flooding time also affects the cultivation of such floating crops. Therefore, if farmers could solve the problem from strong wind and wave effect, they can cultivate at a large scale in the flood season.
I think if this type of cultivation is applied at a large scale and to be an industry, farmers are easier to follow. Suitable locations, type of crops, working together at a large scale and planning for the output ensured by the demand of consumption will create a successful floating crop system. If farmers do at a small scale, they will stop anytime if the crop is not successful. Moreover, if more and more farmers do the same crops, they are not able to sell the products. The more stable crops, the more farmer will do.

21th August 2016, Tan Tuyen commune, Tri Ton district in An Giang province, the 4-year high dike area -2 interviews
I interviewed two (2) farmers. One farmer has one (1) ha and the other has 0.8 ha. Both of them are cultivating triple rice.
They told me that the soil quality in the area has alum infection so that yield of rice is low. Moreover, traders bought wet rice with very low price. They said they like double rice more than triple rice because the rice yield was higher. Besides, the production costs as fertilizers and pesticide are higher than before. As a result, the profit from rice cultivation is very low, just about 600.000 VND/1000 m2 (30 USD/1000m2). One farmer also informed me that if someone rents land for rice cultivation, he/she would have no profit at all.
When I told one farmer that the government in An Giang now puts a regulation that “high dike construction is prohibited”. He said “the area nearby starts triple rice cultivation with high dike construction”.
Two of them said the same story with other farmers in Chau Phu when we asked about the agreement of farmers on the high dike construction when the state encouraged. They said some farmers agreed and some farmers protested. Farmers protested the high dike policy because they had to pay high investment costs during three years for high dike construction. Not all 100% farmers supported the high dike, but later, the local government finally constructed the high dikes.
One farmer stated that he caught natural fish during 2-3 months of flood events because he did not know what to do. He knows some farmers cultivated water mimosa (Neptunia oleracea) during the floods in the history but they just planted those crops for daily food because the price in the market was low. These farmers just cultivated these crops about 100 m2 in the hidden places without wind and flood wave influence. These farms were protected by bamboo surrounding.
I asked one farmer if he wants to change into the other crops with higher profit compared to rice. He responded that not many farmers change then he does not want to change. He scared about planting technology, labour sources and failure from starting new crops. He also told me that he know some farmers are doing vegetable and water melon with high profit than rice.

[1] Program no. 31 was issued by the People’s Committee of An Giang province in 2002 and ended after 2 years. This program is initiated by Mr. Nguyen Minh Nhi, the former president of the province. This program organized activities, created more work to help farmers living with and adapting to floods. By an interview with Mr. Nhi via email, he mentioned this program was successful at that time in terms of improving the livelihood for poor farmers during the flood seasons.