Vietnam rice farming appFarming is becoming more valuable to Vietnam’s development as a nation. Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy and is highly reliant on its agricultural sector. The value of Vietnam’s agriculture, fishing and forestry markets accounted for almost 15% of the country’s GDP in 2020. However, there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of Vietnamese agricultural success. A Vietnam rice farming app is helping farmers to overcome these obstacles.

Rice and Salt Water

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest rice producers. These rice farmers depend on certain environmental conditions to take place in order to produce their influential yield. If natural variables are out of alignment, an entire season’s crop can go to waste. Without a successful crop, the livelihood of farmers is put at risk and they can easily slip into poverty. Thankfully, a Vietnam rice farming app was designed to keep rice farmers aware of precisely how their paddies are doing.

The smartphone app is helpful for farmers all across Vietnam, including in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is a vast expanse in the southern part of Vietnam where the majority of the country’s farming and fishing occurs. The pronounced wet and dry seasons affect the delta greatly since it’s a very low-lying area. During the wet season, there is plenty of fresh rainwater that fills the rivers. In the dry season, rivers are not filled with rainwater, so seawater laden with salt flows into them. A high saltwater content in rice fields can make the roots of the rice inefficient at absorbing water and can kill the plant. Regulating the salt content is a crucial aspect of being a rice paddy farmer. The Vietnam rice farming app aims to help local farmers monitor salt levels among its various other features to protect farms.

Impact of the App

Technology is offering a simple solution to the problem. The Vietnamese government, in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), launched a mobile app that provides farmers with information about the state of water in their rice paddies. This Vietnam rice farming app reports data collected by various sensors placed on farms across the Mekong Delta to each app user.

This Vietnam rice farming app gets information to the farmers quickly, which helps the farmers to make the necessary changes before it’s too late. Farmers can easily check the app for updates on the water quality in their rice paddies, such as the water’s salinity, pH, alkalinity and tidal water levels. This information helps farmers to prevent their crops from going to waste. For example, when the app reports salinity being too high, farmers know they must pump fresh water into the fields.

Before this mobile app, farmers were only getting one out of the usual three harvests annually. During a salinity wave, 300,000 hectares of rice fields were lost. But due to the implementation of the sensors and tracking abilities, the next salinity wave brought only 21,000 hectares of damage. This Vietnam rice farming app is protecting farmers from the costly reality of a ruined crop.

Of Poverty and Rice

The Vietnam rice farming app has a broad impact. About half of Vietnam’s 47 million labor force workers engage in agriculture and a poor harvest could prove detrimental to many Vietnamese people. Many in Vietnam don’t have savings and live a subsistence lifestyle, which can make any financial blow very serious. This is particularly true for the nearly 70% of the country lives in rural areas where poverty is especially concerning. The rate of rural poverty is around three times the urban poverty rate. By reducing the variables and uncertainty in the farming process with an app, Vietnamese farmers can feel empowered and less threatened about falling into extreme poverty. Utilizing this technology in agricultural practices can help save the rice paddies and protect against poverty in Vietnam.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

Yelibuya, an island in Sierra Leone, provides a case study of mangroves and their importance to life in marine areas. The coastline sinks further into the ocean year by year as a direct result of the high proportion of the diminishing mangroves that buoy Yelibuya. Many community elders and members are aware of the necessity to maintain the trees. In efforts to find a way to save the mangroves, new ideas on sustainable farming are being implemented throughout the country.

The Dangers of Losing the Mangroves

The ocean is starting to swallow Yelibuya like a fish swallows a lure. As the essential mangrove trees disappear from deforestation, the island seems to be sinking into the ocean, causing further erosion. Fresh food and water are imported, but because of its location near Sierra Leone’s capital, its main profit for Yelibuya comes from fish, salt and rice farming.

Over-harvested or dying trees means the soil, which was once reinforced by mangrove roots, is beginning to crumble away, leading to landslides and the destruction of homes and the shoreline. Elders in the central town of Yelibuya estimate that they have lost 300 meters of coastline over the last 30 years. Many of the inhabitants would leave if they could, but they cannot abandon their families or businesses.

As the island sinks, the tides rise and erode groves of trees, making it difficult for more trees to grow. A disaster in 2017, the Freetown landslide, wiped out many homes and killed more than 1,000 people. The primary protection against rising ocean is Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves, which also double as the main source for heat and fuel since Yelibuya possesses no alternative fuel.

Solutions to preserve Sierra Leone’s dying Mangroves

Over the last 30 years, the size of global mangrove forests in hectares had decreased from 167,700 to 100,000 as of 2005. As more renewable energy and alternative farming options become available, however, this number can turn around. In fact, the rate of deforestation had already decreased from the 1990s compared to the 1980s.

Recent projects introduced by a branch of USAID in West Africa partnered with rice farmers to integrate mangroves into their fields (agro-silviculture) instead of cutting down trees to build fences. Though the plan was met with apprehension by some community members, many were excited by the idea of not harvesting trees each year. In 2017, 55 percent of farmer pledged to use agro-silviculture in their rice farms. As of June 2018, the selected areas for the rice agro-silviculture case study in Sierra Leone are reaping the benefits of healthier lands from preventing soil erosion.

Increasing Sustainability

The Ramsar Convention on Biological Diversity is an inter-governmental treaty studying ways to improve the coastline biodiversity and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone. Ramsar is looking into work on water policies and other strategies in the country, such as sustainable development, energy, poverty reduction and food security. It is working to develop and integrate programs such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Sierra Leone’s Vision 2025 and the Food Security Framework that directly link poverty and its effect on the environment.

In 2000, when Sierra Leone officially contracted with Ramsar, it was believed that “traditional fishing and agro-forestry for fuelwood can be sustainably managed in collaboration with an existing EU-funded Artisanal Fishing Community Development Program.” The goals of the convention are to promote sustainability in coastline development, poverty reduction and the introduction of alternative fuels. All of these goals would contribute to the preservation of Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves.

Maintaining Sustainability

A report released in 2016 shows that 1 percent of the mangroves in Sierra Leone Coastal landscape disappear each year. It is essential to find alternative fuels so that Yelibuya’s inhabitants can support the growth of the mangroves rather than depend on them for firewood too. Many other communities found ways to introduce new methods of fueling and construction, and the availability of these new methods for Yelibuya will determine its adaption to using mangroves as environmental protection rather than fuel.

Overall, Sierra Leone recognizes the wetland and mangrove crisis, and many inhabitants show eagerness to adopt new mangrove-friendly fuel options. The magnitude of Yelibuya’s sinking problem illustrates a connection between poverty and the inaccessibility of alternative fuels and how these two problems impact the land and marine life. Hopefully, as awareness spreads and new methods are adopted, the roots of mangroves will grow to sustain the buoyant communities that depend on these trees.

Hannah Peterson

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in MyanmarIn 2015, the FAO recognized Myanmar as one of 72 countries that cut its population of people suffering from hunger in half, one of the Millennium Development Goals set by the U.N. The agriculture industry in Myanmar accounts for a majority of the country’s income and is its largest source of employment, so it makes sense that there are dozens of opportunities for growth in sustainable agriculture in Myanmar.

The potential for Myanmar’s agriculture to improve is strong. Though the country has one of the lowest yields in Southeast Asia, Myanmar also has some of the lowest labor costs. In order to capitalize on the opportunities provided by the current economic climate, Myanmar’s government has created a set of agricultural policies to “establish a peaceful, modern and developed country.” The 12 policies focus on furthering development, protecting and educating farmers and reducing poverty through the agriculture industry.

Sustainable agriculture in Myanmar is pioneered by a large population of small-scale rural farmers. Approximately 70 percent of the country’s population depends on agriculture for food and income, and the government is making an effort to support this population through The Law of Protection of the Farmer Rights and Enhancement of their Benefits. The law was enacted in 2013 and a Leading Body was appointed to assist Burmese farmers and enforce the regulations under the law. The Leading Body is in charge of giving loans, ensuring that farmers get reasonable payment for their products and importing technology, fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and other necessary provisions.

At this time, Myanmar’s biggest agricultural export is rice. According to the Ministry of Commerce, the demand for rice produced in Myanmar is the highest it has been in 50 years. However, other major rice exporters in Southeast Asia—such as Thailand and Cambodia—are taking advantage of the rising demand for high-quality rice. Myanmar has previously capitalized on exporting to low-quality markets and thus has a history of outputting low-quality products. Going forward, sustainable agriculture in Myanmar will only continue to improve if the quality of the industry’s products improves. As the industry evolves, new strains of higher-quality rice and other cereals are slowly being introduced to Burmese farms.

Many opportunities are arising to continue the development of sustainable agriculture in Myanmar. As working conditions improve and the industry grows, Myanmar’s residents are looking at an improvement of the country’s overall economic wellness.

– Anna Sheps

Photo: Flickr

USAID Helps Vietnam Increase its Rice YieldsAs climate change affects agriculture across the developing world, food security is a painful reality for farmers who depend on their crops to eat and eke out a meager living. Every grain of rice they grow is valued — USAID is helping farmers in Vietnam to bolster their harvest yields.

USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, implemented the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program in 2012, aimed at promoting rice production practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve livelihoods with Vietnam’s agricultural extension services.

The program is focused on enhancing climate change resilience and working with all echelons of the Vietnamese society, from the community level up to the national level. Farmers are learning new agricultural techniques and are putting into practice climate-smart livelihoods in order to improve quality of life. They are applying new national policies and strategies in response to rising temperatures and changing weather pattern concerns. The program mainly concentrates on environmental conditions in Vietnam’s vulnerable forest and delta landscapes.

The Thanh Hoa and Kon Tum provinces have been selected by pilots for moving green growth strategies. With the implementation of innovative land use planning and training programs including local government, civil society and the private sector are demonstrating measurable improvements in carbon stocks and environmental services.

The Mekong and Red River Delta areas are increasingly falling victim to climate-related hazards such as storms, flooding, drought, salinity and sea level rise. These deltas are home to some of the most heavily populated and economically productive areas of Vietnam, making the region especially important as well as vulnerable to the country’s stability. USAID is working with the government and communities of the Long An and Nam Dinh provinces to help the population identify climate-related risks and how to take action in order to provide long term resilience.

USAID is working in partnership with several organizations including Winrock International, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, provincial governments, the Netherlands Development Organization, American Red Cross, Vietnam Red Cross and the Center for Sustainable Rural Development.

In Long An province, with training provided by USAID, farmers across the region have boosted rice yields dramatically, in many cases up to 25 percent more. This means that families once struggling with food insecurity and little to no profit from rice sales are eating better and making a better living, improving quality of life.

Before The Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program went into effect, farmers with minimal agricultural experience suffered preventable crop losses due to ignorance such as overuse or imbalance of fertilizers. As a result of the program, people learned how to apply new techniques including development of internal drainage lines and favoring conditions that lead to stronger and healthier rice plants such as rice paddy leveling.

No matter what one’s views of climate change are, it is a very real problem for the poor with real effects on the people struggling to survive in the delta and forest regions of Vietnam. USAID has proved an essential resource in the developing world. With the programs offered by the agency and its partners, poverty could soon be a thing of the past.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, Winrock, MARD

Photo: OceanBitesE

Rice-Flour-Food-SecurityNutrition is a basic human need, and the lack of nutrition is a sad result of the poverty plaguing so much of the world. South Asia, one of the largest producers of rice, also has the highest overall number of hungry people in the world, with a current estimate at 295 million. A new kind of rice flour could help.

Food insecurity is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”

Rice flour is a kind of flour made from finely milled rice. It can be a good substitute for wheat flour because it does not cause digestive system irritation. It is used in many of the foods eaten across South Asia, and although wheat flour is slightly higher in nutrition than rice flour, rice is grown in abundance compared to wheat across Asia.

The problem with “normal” rice flour is that it is typically not as efficient at making bread as wheat flour, due to the presence of a particular protein called PDIL1. Researchers studying protein compounds in rice flour at Yamagata University in Japan have discovered that rice flour deficient in the PDIL1 protein active during seed development can produce dough far superior to normal rice flour.

A type of rice flour better suited to make bread could be an incredible leap forward in the fight to end global poverty because more food could be made in a better way across the developing world where rice is widely grown, thus improving food security in poverty-stricken areas.

According to the World Food Programme, hunger kills more people every year than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. That’s about one in nine people on Earth.

The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population is undernourished.

Asia is the continent with the most starving people—two-thirds of its total population. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in west Asia it has increased slightly.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished.

Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five—3.1 million children each year.

One out of six children, roughly 100 million, in developing countries is underweight. One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries, the proportion can rise to one in three.

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

The World Food Programme calculates that $3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

With the new improved rice flour, dough becomes easily stretched and less sticky. It also holds bubbles better during fermentation and baking, and holds its shape and texture after baking. Researchers are already experimenting with PDIL1-deficient rice plants that can be grown in varying climates to improve food security and nutrition globally.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: Economic Times, SciDev, Phys
Photo: Brittany Angell


Climate change is having a profound effect on coastal rice farming. The resulting increase in pests, diseases, water scarcity, and salinity has been devastating to farmers.

Research conducted over the past decade demonstrates a strong relationship between climate change and the prevalence of disease and pests in rice paddies. Crop stressors like irregular rainfall often increase the virulence of rice blights such as brown spot and blast. Extreme weather, like flooding or drought, forces farmers into asynchronous, or unseasonal, cropping. Such practices, along with the weather events themselves, often lead to pest population explosions.

Water scarcity is another factor affecting rice production. As rice requires a certain amount of water to grow, even less-severe droughts can take a toll on production yields. Climate change continues to cause more frequent and more severe droughts, and rice farmers are starting to feel the pressure of drying rice paddies.

As higher temperatures and lower rainfall cause a decrease in ground water, sea levels continue to rise and intrude into fresh water areas. These factors cause a noted increase in salinity. Rice, particularly higher-yielding hybrids, is only moderately tolerant of salt. Thus, increases in the salinity usually see a decrease in yields for the affected paddies.

Drastic decreases in production are causing some farmers to abandon their fields. Several governments and NGOs, like Practical Action, a UK-based development organization, are launching initiatives to help these rice farmers cope with the growing challenges of climate change.

Practical Action partnered with farmers in southern Sri Lanka, a country that has seen significant effects of climate change over the past 20 years. The organization participated in farmer-led trials of traditional varieties of rice to assess each type’s resistance to temperature, pests, and salinity. The varieties were held against standards of crop duration, plant height, grain quality, and overall yield.

Sri Lanka has over 2,000 traditional varieties of rice. Most of these varieties had been abandoned for modern rice types and hybrids, but new climate challenges are turning many farmers back to indigenous varieties. The traditional rice is nutritional, some even having medicinal properties, and according to tests are more resilient in the face of climate change.

In fact, of the ten varieties tested by farmers in the Practical Action program, four scored high enough to now be officially promoted through farmer organizations as hardy and saline tolerant. The traditional rice cannot, generally, produce the high yields of hybrids, but its resilience and popularity in the consumer market still enable a farmer to generate profit.

It seems that for an agricultural community faced with emerging climate challenges, revisiting traditional methods could be the best solution.

– Lauren Brown

Sources: Practical Action
Photo: International Land Coalition


Rice farming in Botanga, Ghana, has seen an increase in productivity due to an agricultural project funded by the USAID.  The Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) program started two years ago to help farmers who use the lands of the Botanga Irrigation Scheme. The program was designed to increase productivity.

Marketing companies and produce buyers were brought into the project to help the rice farmers grow and cultivate improved rice varieties. Currently around 600 farmers are farming the land and many of them have benefited from the ADVANCE project. The rice cultivated is used mainly for cereal and vegetables. The project brought in combine harvesters that have improved rice harvesting and helped to lower some of the post-harvest losses in Botanga. Rice farmers were educated on better farming techniques. They were shown how to create nurseries and replant with adequate spacing to ensure better yields for future crops. The ADVANCE project also helped improve the business side of rice farming.  Farmers were offered support in selling crops and provided information and expert knowledge on controlling pests and disease.

Food insecurity is a major issue across all developing nations and Ghana is no exception. The USAID-ADVANCE project hoped to improve food security and increase the incomes of households of rice farmers in the Botanga region.  A value-chain method was developed to allow farmers access to all parts of the production process such as input dealers, seed suppliers, and produce buyers.  The method starts first with identifying a buyer and demand for the product to ensure crops can be sold. Premium Foods and AMSIG Resources were two buyers linked to the rice farmers. The buyers then developed contracts with the farmers that provide support, weed control, seeds, and an agreed upon price to buy the rice from the farmers.

Since the ADVANCE program began, 29,000 low income farmers are being supported. These farmers grow maize, rice, and soybeans. They are getting the help they need to grow successful crops and are being paid a fair market price for their produce. 269 demonstration sites have also been set up to show farmers new technology and how to best utilize it.  The introduction of infrastructure and technology have helped Botanga rice farmers improve their lifestyles. The project also falls in line with President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: GhanaWeb

Revolutionary Rice Farming In IndiaAn Indian farmer from Bihar, the poorest state in India, has managed to grow a world record of 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. Sumant Kumar of the village of Darveshpura is just one of many other farmers who have managed to reap more than 17 tonnes of rice. Agricultural scientists and development experts are both bewildered and excited as to how record amounts of rice are being grown using only farmyard manure and without the use of herbicides. This revolution of rice farming in India has the potential to greatly reduce poverty in a world where a huge majority live off a diet of rice.

Before Kumar’s crop of 22.4 tonnes, the record was held at 19.4 tonnes by Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping who is known as the “father of rice.” Also outdone were scientists of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and some of the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. These record growths aren’t stopping with rice either. Six months after Kumar’s record-breaking crop, his friend Nitish broke another world record for growing potatoes. Another Bihari farmer, Ravidra Kumar, broke the Indian record for growing wheat. With all these recent developments, the village of Darveshpura is quickly gaining a reputation as India’s “miracle village.”

Scientists and development experts have conducted tests on the soil to determine the cause of these “super yields.” Besides a richness in silicon, the key catalyst has been found to be the utilization of a farming method known as System of Rice (or Root) Intensification (SRI). SRI consists of nurturing half as many seeds as normally are done and transplanting them when younger in the grid pattern to keep the soil from drying faster. This “less is more” method has led to increased yields of wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, and many other crops and opens a door to a long-term sustainable alternative to the “green revolution” which involves changing the genes and soil nutrients to improve yields.

Agricultural scientists are at odds as to whether the SRI method is the main cause of such high yields. Regardless, it is increasingly being accepted as one of the most significant developments for farmers in the past half-century. Dr. Surendra Chaurassa from the Department of Agriculture of Bihar believes that this could change the way rice farming in India is being done and recommends that every state in India incorporate the method. “Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more,” he said.

As Dr. Chaurassa describes it, the process is “revolutionary” especially in a nation where 93% of the population of 100 million depends on growing rice and potatoes. Bihar, the poorest state in India, is now in the middle of this “new green grassroots revolution.” Nitish Kumar who can now afford to send his children to school and spend more on health says, “In previous years, farming has not been very profitable. Now I realize it can be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian