Delta farmers can cash in on drought and salinity, experts say

By Vuong Duc Anh   March 23, 2016 | 01:23 am PT
Scientists suggest farmers in the Mekong Delta consider switching crops to take advantage of the changing conditions in the region. 

Thousands of hectares of rice in the Mekong Delta have been destroyed by prolonged drought.

Farmers may have to accept and adapt to prolonged drought and salinity in the delta, according to Dr Vo Tong Xuan from Nam Can Tho University

“People should take advantage of increased salinity as it does present a potentially lucrative opportunity. The thinking that salinity is the enemy is no longer correct,” Xuan said.

People living in impacted areas should switch to a more stable cultivation model by combining planting rice with seafood farming. Farmers could grow rice at the beginning of the rainy season and move to aquaculture in the drier months, Xuan explained.

“My Xuyen ward in Soc Trang Province has already implemented this method and has earned more than four or five times the money than from just growing rice,”

Dr. Nguyen Huu Thien, an expert on irrigation in the Mekong Delta, also recommended farmers change their cultivation methods due to salinity.

“Cultivating rice with the coastal area’s harsh weather conditions is no longer suitable, even more so during the dry season,” Thien said.

Instead of investing in large irrigation systems to contain salinity without guaranteed results, Vietnam should build moderate-sized project to limit salt water intrusion and help local farmers switch to other agriculture products, Thien suggested.

Though he agreed with the need to change crop types in the affected provinces, Dr. To Van Truong, former head of the Southern Irrigation Planning Institute, expressed concern that prawn farming would still require fresh water.

Truong said the recent incident in Soc Trang Province that saw thousands of tonnes of clams and tiger prawns die was due to excessive levels of salinity which cannot be reduced without fresh water.

The experts did agreed that the three to six months of drought and salinity ahead could be overcome, and authorities should work on better forecasting conditions to help farmers prepare for these events.

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