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Improving maize-based farming systems on sloping lands in Vietnam and Lao PDR

This project aims to help farmers in northern Vietnam and Lao PDR adopt maize-based farming systems that reduce soil degradation and improve smallholder livelihoods and economic viability.
More farmers in those countries are growing maize to supply Chinese and Southeast Asian poultry, pig and cattle industries that demand concentrate livestock feeds. Many upland rice production areas are being turned into maize fields, and maize is also being grown on sloping lands, including forests.
Smallholder maize cultivation on sloping land is characterised by high rates of run-off, soil erosion and nutrient loss that cause soil fertility and maize yields to quickly decline. Many areas become completely unproductive in less than 10 years.
The effect of this fertility decline has worsened as ethnic minorities in mountainous regions change from semi-nomadic living and swiddens (land cleared for cultivation by slashing and burning vegetation) to more sedentary habitation requiring long-term use of land. Consequences are most severe on steep slopes where the poverty rates and populations of ethnic minorities are highest.
Building on previous ACIAR research (AGB/2008/002), this project will design and test diversified maize-based farming systems, including both integrating forages and livestock (especially cattle) and diversifying crops; promote diversification of value chains; and provide technical support to make these communities more prosperous.
The project will identify, and help farmers adapt and adopt diversified and more sustainable farming systems that can maintain or improve profitability.