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Towards more profitable and sustainable vegetable production systems in north-western Vietnam

Project Code: AGB/2012/059
Program: Agribusiness
Research Program Manager: Mr Howard Hall
Project Leader: Wendy Umberger - University of Adelaide
MAR 2014
DEC 2018
Project Status: Concluded
Key partners
Centre for Agricultural Policy
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute
Hanoi Agricultural University
Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development
National Institute of Medicinal Materials
Plant Protection sub-Department Lao Cai
Soil and Fertilizer Research Institute
University of Queensland
Vietnam Women's Union


This project aimed to enhance the profitability and sustainability of smallholder vegetable farmers in north-western Vietnam, through improved engagement with high-value markets (domestic and export) and integrated resource- and disease-management practices.

A comprehensive market analysis for indigenous and conventional vegetables identified opportunities for smallholders. The project collected baseline data on socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. household income and nutrition), and on factors affecting crop yield, soil function, and water and nutrient balance. It tested value chain and postharvest interventions, and used modelling to recommend best management practices. The research focussed on women and ethnic minorities in Sa Pa and Bắc Hà, Lào Cai province.


Project AGB/2015/059 sought to enhance the profitability and sustainability of smallholder vegetable farming households in the Sa Pa and Bắc Hà, Lào Cai ​Province in north-west (NW) Vietnam.

Lào Cai Province was selected as the study location because of potential opportunities in emerging high value horticulture markets, both domestically and in nearby China. Additionally, the region has climate and soil conditions favourable for growing vegetables. Smallholders were increasingly integrating vegetables into their existing, largely subsistence or semi-subsistence farming systems. Thus, the focus was on improving smallholders’ market opportunities and market engagement; and implementing integrated resource and disease management practices into smallholder farming systems.

Despite opportunities, significant development of a viable smallholder inclusive vegetable sector in the region faces several challenges, including: (1) rapidly transforming and highly competitive regional vegetable markets; (2) poor competitiveness with peri-urban and regional producers; (3) poor infrastructure and logistics; (4) nutrient depleted soils; and (5) soil-borne diseases. To address these issues which affected both supply and demand for vegetables from the region, this project implemented a multi-disciplinary approach. All activities focused on capacity building of partnering institutions in Vietnam as well as Australia.

Maximising the profitability of Lao Cai’s smallholder vegetable farming systems, whilst sustainably managing soil, water and nutrient resources will continue to be challenging, particularly given the need to intensify production to maximise returns to smallholder farmers operating on very small parcels of land.