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More Than Rice: The Future of Food Security in Vietnam

25 July 2019 Vietnam

Bristol Powell and Audrey Vadillo of IRI examine details of a sustainable development plan with staff from the General Statistics Office and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Photo: Jacquelyn Turner/IRIBristol Powell and Audrey Vadillo of IRI examine details of a sustainable development plan with staff from the General Statistics Office and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. Photo: Jacquelyn Turner/IRI

When many people envision food security in Vietnam, they think of rice. More than seven million tons of it are harvested each year, making Vietnam the third-largest exporter of the crop. What isn’t exported feeds the Vietnamese population; rice provides 65 percent of people’s daily calories on average, making it a vital piece of both food and financial security.

However, many of those working in agriculture in Vietnam believe rice may not be the future of food security for the country going forward. Cash crops such as coffee, cashews, and fruit may provide more stability and better value, allowing small-scale farmers to start to pull themselves out of poverty and to access higher nutrition foods. Regardless of the crop, the uncertainties of a variable climate pose a challenge to farmers’ success.

These are the kinds of ideas that teams from Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and the Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) heard at a policy workshop in March in Vietnam, as part of Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, for Tomorrow (ACToday), the first Columbia World Project. The workshop, supported by ACToday and by a CIAT-implemented project known as DeRISK, convened representatives from government agencies and farmers’ groups to discuss what climate information is currently being generated and used for agriculture and where the process can be improved for more effective decision making.

The IRI and CIAT organizers asked officials from the National Center for Hydrological and Meteorological Forecasting, the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute of Nutrition to work together on their approaches to food security and nutrition. Each of the agencies presented their mission and objectives and explained their role in helping Vietnam achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: ending hunger and malnutrition, achieving food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

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