Agroforestry - The Most Resilient Farming System for the Hilly Northwest of Vietnam

Lua Thi Hoang, James M. Roshetko, Thuong Pham Huu, Tim Pagella, Phuong Nguyen Mai


Over 94% of the land of northwestern Vietnam is classified as sloping. Population growth has exerted pressure on local natural resources, with agricultural expansion on steep slopes resulting in forest degradation, landscape fragmentation and severe environmental consequences. Efforts to restore forest ecosystems have been made by the government, however, as the livelihoods of 80% of the population depend on agriculture, the reconversion of land to forest has proven to be an inappropriate solution. Agroforestry offers a potentially sustainable land-use solution, which could re-establish forests, restore ecosystem services, and stabilize local livelihoods. In this paper, we assess the potential of agroforestry development in the region based on the results of two interrelated surveys conducted in 21 representative villages in six districts of three northwestern provinces: 1) a farming system diagnosis implemented in 17 representative villages; and 2) an agroforestry adoption survey with 210 households practising agroforestry in 14 villages. The analysis was strengthened by four years’ experience in implementing an extensive agroforestry project in the region. The studies focussed on assessing key benefits and constraints of existing farming systems, including agroforestry practices, adopted by farmers and identifying the potential for agroforestry development in the region. The results showed that the dominant farming system in the north-western provinces was monoculture of staple crops on slopes, which provided relatively low economic returns. Soil erosion, land degradation, and water shortages resultant from intensive farming practices were the most significant environmental issues in the area. Tree-based farming systems were rare and mostly a result of spontaneous adoption by farmers. Given the mountainous landscape and the need for soil stabilization, agroforestry was seen by farmers as a viable approach. Improving the existing and adopting new, integrated agroforestry systems were identified as viable ways toward sustainable livelihoods in Northwestern Vietnam.


Agroforestry development; farming systems; north-western Vietnam; livelihoods’ improvement; agroforestry adoptions

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