Friday, March 14, 2008

Climate change hits Vietnamese cashew and rubber growers

VietNamNet Bridge: Unseasonal rains last weekend have led to great losses in the cashew nut and rubber industries in several southern and Central Highlands provinces, with other sectors reporting losses caused by global climate change. The southern province of Binh Phuoc tops the country in cashew and rubber growing, with 170,000 ha and 120,000 ha, respectively. Rains and strong winds last weekend destroyed part of the cashew and rubber farms in the province.

In the past few years, provincial authorities provided bank loans for farmers to plant high yield, quality cashew hybrids to obtain a bigger crop output. Although agriculture officials said a kilogram of cashew nuts was selling for VND15,000, crop failure could cause losses of hundreds of millions of dong to farmers.

Farm owners in southeastern provinces have also invested in fruit trees including mango, longan, and tangerines, with many of these orchards partly damaged by recent rains. In the Central Highlands provinces of Lam Dong and Dak Nong, wild sunflowers along the roads have wilted as a result of the cold snap in the north in the last two months.

The stunted growth of wild sunflowers has worried farmers because the plant provides a rich supply of fertiliser, keeps the land fertile and is highly resistant to land erosion.

Scientists of the Southern Agricultural Science and Technical Institute in a Co-operation programme with Belgium's Leuven University have encouraged the planting of sunflowers, which requires little cost. Farmers have spent a great deal of money on fertilisers after crops have failed.

Nguyen Van Sinh, deputy director of Dak Lak Province's Agricultural and Rural Development Department, said local authorities were storing green, manure fertilizers for the upcoming maize crop in lieu of a shortage fertiliser. When the agricultural and rural development sector late last year held a seminar on the dangers of global climate change, attendees heard how severe the impact could be in Vietnam.

The seas could rise and flood large parts of ricefields and threaten tree-growing areas in the southeastern and Central Highlands provinces, they were told. The province has mapped out a plan to provide funding for farmers to build dykes, upgrade water reservoirs and dredge canals to prevent flooding and land from drying out during a drought.

To cope with natural disasters caused by global climate change, scientists were urged to provide guidelines for farmers to restructure their crops and reschedule crop time to mitigate losses.

Map of Vietnam, CIA Factbook, Wikimedia Commons

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