Drought forces crop switch in central Vietnam
Farmers in the central Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces have been forced to switch to crops that require less water, such as grass used to feed cows and buffalo, to cope with water shortages caused by prolonged drought.
Although heavy downpours have been occurring in the past two months, it provided only enough water for a small volume of rice crops, farmers said.
Kieu Van Khanh, a farmer in Thuan Nam District's Phuoc Nam Commune, the area hit the hardest by drought in Ninh Thuan Province, said he has converted 720sq.m of rice crops to grass, a drought-tolerant crop.
"I'm afraid that there will likely be no water for cultivation in the next two months," he said.
Tu Cong Chu, a farmer in the same commune, said he had prepared 4kg of grass seed to cultivate on his 720 sq.m field.
He planted grass in the last crop, and it developed well while other crops of rice and vegetables were seriously damaged due to severe drought.
Dat Chung Vui, agricultural official of the communal People's Committee, said the committee encouraged farmers to change to drought-resistant crops such as corn and grass.
As estimated, about 1,800ha of land will be cultivated for this winter-spring crop. However, the water level at Tan Giang reservoir, the main supply of water, was only 12 million cubic metres.
Tran Quoc Hoan, head of the district's Agriculture and Rural Development Office, said the available water was not enough for rice cultivation.
About 1,000 out of 1,800ha of rice crop have been switched to corn, beans and grass, he added.
Farmers in Vinh Hao and Vinh Tan communes in Binh Thuan Province are facing the same situation.
The newly-built Long Song-Da Bac irrigation system has helped local farmers resume their cultivation after two years of pause. However, the restricted amount of 3.8 million cubic metres of water was only enough for about 2,200ha of rice.
Nguyen Trung Thong, deputy head of Tuy Phong District's Agriculture and Rural Development Office, said that the low level of rain has led to the low water storage at reservoirs.
Only 197 million cubic metres of water was measured at the reservoirs, a reduction of 5.56 million cubic metres compared to the same period last year.
Ham Thuan and Dai Ninh reservoirs only stored about 530 million cubic metres, which occupied 40 per cent of its capacity.
To minimise the losses of this crop, the provincial Irrigation Work Department has proposed a switch from more than 13,000ha of rice crops to other crops.
The department plans to inform local authorities about the water level at reservoirs to help them set up proper cultivation plans, according to deputy head of the department Pham Van Tuyen.