An Thanh Successfully Finishes The Green Productivity Project

The Green Productivity (GP) Project in An Thanh Commune, Mo Cay District, has produced encouraging results in agricultural production and clean water supply for rural life.

The two-year project was sponsored by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) in a GP integrated community development (GP-ICD) program to support the remote rural and highland areas. The overall goal of the program, which was a cooperation between the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) and the Government of the S.R. Viet Nam, was to help remote villages to effectively work out their cause of poverty alleviation.

In 2002, An Thanh Commune was chosen to carry out the Green Productivity Project in Ben Tre Province, with an investment fund of more than 1.1 billion dongs (almost US$70,000), of which 250 million dongs were subsidized by the MPI, another 40 million dongs were sponsored by the Viet Nam Productivity Centre (VPC), and the rest were funded from the Provincial Government budget and public contributions.

The overall goal of the project was to develop demonstrative models to grow green and disease-free orange (including new crop and intensive cultivations), to grow maize for used as cattle food, to raise clawed crayfish in garden ditches, and to construct clean water treatment systems for rural areas.

Before this project was deployed, Ben Tre's Service of Science and Technology, in collaboration with the Southern Agricultural Science and Technology Institute (SASTI) and related sectors, had opened technical training courses for 20 district cadres and 110 demonstrative farmers as well as 340 farmers living in the project area. Amazingly, up to 1,273 participants were attending in the training courses, that's nearly triple the initial plan.

Altogether, 97 households were chosen for the project, including 63 households with existing 14.28 ha of thick-skinned orange and 34 households applying the disease-free approach on 5 ha of new-crop orange. As for intensive cultivation, the project was focused on helping farmers readjust their schemes of fertilizing, tree spacing and caring.

In new crop models (of orange growing), for example, farmers were assisted with correct cultivating techiques such as tree spacings of 1.5-2 metres, seedlings were supplied from disease-free seed gardens, side-grafting, fertilizing techniques, and tree cropping methodology. All these models are in the 15th to 17th months and most are growing well.

Said Nguyen Van Dat of Binh Thoi Village, An Thanh Commune, his 2,000 metres of orange have been growing very fast and are likely to yield up to 5 tonnes of orange fruits per year, thanks to financial support and technical training.

For orange under intensive cultivation, the annual average yield may reach 16 tonnes per hectare, earning farmers 50 to 80 million dongs in pretaxed profits. Particularly, Mr Ho Van Khoanh's household has the highest yield and profit, with 25 tonnes/ha/year and 174 million dongs. Mr Khoanh is followed by Mr Nguyen Van Tien, 170 million dongs/ha, and Mr Nguyen Minh Tuyen, 167 million dongs/ha.

Some households, however, faced rather high rates of damage (10% to 50%) due to improper growing time and unclear seedlings source, all had to replant, and are now growing well.

The project also supports farmers to raise road clawed crayfish in orange garden ditches with 9,500 sqm of surface area. After 2 months, the creatures have developed fairly well, counting 65 to 70 individuals per kilo.

As planned, the project would invest in 15 hectares for growing the high-yield F1V98-1 maize used in manufacturing cattle food. This variety of maize can greatly endure drought condition and can grow well in sandy soil as well as in water-deprived conditions in An Thanh. It has a rather short growing time between 65 and 70 days, and may produce up to 7 tonnes of dried corncob per year and a profit of 500 USD per year, a much higher productivity compared to local maize, which produces 1.5 to 5.5 tonnes per hectare.

Locals, however, for long used to grow white maize and the X-2 species of maize for they have shorter growing duration (25 to 30 fewer days) and may be more easily consumed than imported maize. This is why farmers apperantly preferred local maize species to imported ones. That in turn explains why there were just 6 households and 0.4 ha of land participating in the project.

There were 36 households chosen for the project of water treatment in sandy soil and alum contaminated land conditions. The water treatment was designed to be capable of producing 0.6 to 2 m3 per day. Water treatment was using the Eijector methodology, and pH treatment using specialized materials, thus conforming to sanitary standards and regulations issued by the Health Minitry.

Socially, this technology has effectively secured clean water for the livelihood of rural people and protecting the community health.

Economically, the project can save a lot of money for rural consumers, and millions of dongs for the budget. Said Mr Nguyen Van Em, a farmer living in the project area, the project has greatly helped his family with clean water. He said that before the project, his family had to depend on salt-contaminated water, so it was not so safe. Now it is much better, his family has not seen water-related diseases like before. Now over 50 other households outside the project also benefit from the project.

In general, for the most part, the green project in An Thanh Commune has produced satisfactory results that can be multiplied to other localities.

One of the largest setbacks to the project is that, local production and consumption practices have reduced the productivity of the imported maize growing.

But, the overall effect of the Green Productivity Project in An Thanh Commune has contributed to changing the face of rural life in Ben Tre. It also kick-started a new movement of farming restructuring and clean water awareness amongst Ben Tre's farmers. The greatest effect of Green Productivity Project is to help upgrade farmers' thinking on clean water and sustainable production.

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