Date released
14 December 2023

For the past 30 years, Vietnam’s agriculture sector has been steadily modernising, progressing from an initial focus on food security to a robust, increasingly diverse agricultural economy. The country today is confident of achieving its goal of being one of the world’s leading food producers by 2030.

The story of development from largely subsistence farming to a food-exporting nation is a classic case study of what targeted agricultural research and extension can achieve. It also reaffirms the value and importance of the ACIAR ‘sleeves up’ approach to this enduring objective.

Australia also celebrates 50 years of diplomatic relationship with Vietnam, developing comprehensive cooperation that has included partnerships with ACIAR over the past 3 decades.

Accelerating development

Dr Nguyen Van Bo, a member of Australia’s Commission for International Agricultural Research and former President of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said Vietnam’s relationship with ACIAR had helped to accelerate the country’s economic development.

‘Developing countries like Vietnam are in dire need of technology. Through cooperation with Australian scientists, we have gained access to the world’s advanced science and technology,’ said Dr Bo.

A key feature of the relationship between ACIAR and Vietnam has been investment and support for capacity building in ways that not only build technical expertise in Vietnam, but also have value for Australia.

‘While building diplomatic relationships through science, the knowledge and experience gained by both Australian and Vietnamese researchers will help Australia prepare well for pests and diseases it has not yet encountered,’ said Dr Bo.

In terms of research leadership, there are now many heads of agencies and senior people in Vietnam who are ACIAR alumni through scholarships such as the John Allwright, Meryl Williams and John Dillon fellowships.

Dr Bo also highlighted the important role of agriculture in providing social and political stability for Vietnam, which ACIAR activities have made a significant contribution to, and which was demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growth and sustainability

ACIAR Acting Chief Scientist, Dr James Quilty, said Vietnam’s agriculture sector was now moving from volume to a quality and product diversification strategy.

‘Agricultural research for development has really taken Vietnam from the point where it was all about food security, to economic growth,’ said Dr Quilty.

‘They haven’t taken their eye off food security, but without that agricultural development, Vietnam would not be the tiger economy of Asia that it now is.’

Australian support for agricultural research in Vietnam is also expected to have wider benefits in reducing farming’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In South-East Asia, the main agricultural greenhouse gas is methane from rice fields, and it is a critical challenge to reduce these emissions in the Mekong River Delta, which is one of the largest rice-growing areas in the world.

Dr Quilty noted that Vietnam’s commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions, plus the diminishing viability of dry-season rice farming, was a major impetus for the Vietnamese Government’s push for less volume but higher quality rice, coupled with more crop diversification.

a group of women and a man standing in front of a colourful painting. They each hold a different vegetable, and pose for the photo.
Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski (second from right) met farmers and researchers participating in ACIAR-funded projects at ACIAR Vietnam stakeholder meeting in Hanoi. Photo: ACIAR

10-year strategy

Vietnam is now implementing a 10-year strategy that has the stated ambition of having world-class agriculture able to supply to premium markets, and for living standards in rural areas to be on par with urban communities.

Advances in food production and quality will come largely from agronomy improvements and technology to improve irrigation efficiency, reduce methane emissions from rice and maintain forests.

These objectives are reflected in the current ACIAR–Vietnam strategy, which is also focused on helping the smallholder agriculture sector to become more commercial, and increasing private sector partnerships with farmers and researchers.

Commercial drive

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Mr Andrew Goledzinowski said he has been impressed by the drive and confidence of Vietnamese farmers he has met who have entered high-value vegetable markets as a result
of ACIAR-supported research.

They have transitioned from growing vegetables for their household to reaching high-demand markets and have transformed their livelihoods.

‘I see a strong impact of capacity building and market linkages for farmers on the ground through ACIAR-funded projects, even though ACIAR doesn’t necessarily work directly with them,’ said Mr Goledzinowski.

He also highlighted the major 4-year, ACIAR-supported public–private partnership with the SunRice Group to help connect smallholder rice farmers in Vietnam to the premium, high-value and well-established global markets.

Mr Goledzinowski said this new partnership was a great example of how good research outcomes could be used by the private sector, which is able to provide adoption pathways.

ACIAR currently supports 25 projects in Vietnam; 13 specific to Vietnam and 12 that are part of broader regional projects.

Areas of research cover agribusiness development, climate change impacts, fisheries, forestry, livestock systems, social systems that support gender equity and ethnic minorities, and soil and land management.

‘As Vietnam and Australia are moving to the next level of bilateral relations, ACIAR will continue to play an important role in helping Vietnam shape their rural and agriculture development agenda through more effective research collaboration,’ said Mr Goledzinowski.

‘Australia wants to support Vietnam’s socioeconomic development through ACIAR and other ongoing works with our Vietnamese partners. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in this picture.’