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Soc Trang islet farmers beat saltwater intrusion, drought by storing water

Switching to high-value crops and adopting advanced techniques have helped farmers in Soc Trang Province’s Cu Lao Dung District cope reasonably well with the effects of climate change and ensure steady incomes.


A longan orchard in Soc Trang Province’s Cu Lao Dung District grows well despite saltwater intrusion in rivers and canals since farmers have stored water in ditches covered with plastic sheets in their orchards. 


Located between the mouths of the Dinh An and Tran De rivers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, the district is an islet that is affected by saltwater intrusion in its water bodies and thus lack of water for irrigation in the dry season every year.

There is severe saltwater intrusion now, but many farmers still have water for their crops since they have taken measures like storing water in ditches in orchards and creating efficient irrigation systems.

Tran Van Khanh of An Thanh Tay Commune grows 2ha of fruits, mostly Ido longan, and his crop is growing well since he uses an efficient irrigation system.

He now harvests 70 – 100kg of longan daily and sells it at VND18,000 – 20,000 per kilogramme.

He uses groundwater and water stored in ditches in the orchard.

He used to grow sugarcane but switched to fruits a few years go since sugarcane prices were too low.

Many farmers in the district, one of the delta’s largest sugarcane growing areas, have turned to high-value crops because of the decline in sugarcane prices in recent years.

The district has 15,700ha of agricultural lands. The area under sugarcane has shrunk by 2,600ha since 2016 to 3,902ha.

Farmers earned very little from the 2019 – 20 sugarcane crop because of low prices and lack of steady demand.

Tran Thanh Hiep, who has grown sugarcane for many years, said it was the third consecutive crop that had suffered from low prices, high costs and lack of demand.

“After nearly one year of growing sugarcane, farmers earn nothing.”

This year district authorities have encouraged farmers to switch to high-value crops like fruits, coconut and vegetables on 680ha of sugarcane farms.

The district now has more than 3,600ha of fruit orchards and 3,900ha of aquaculture farms.

The soil there is fertile, enabling fruits like longan, mango, grapefruit, and guava to grow well.

Nguyen Van Dac, deputy head of the district’s Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the saltwater intrusion this time has been more severe than in the record 2015 -16 dry season, but crop damage has been low after proactive measures were taken to cope with it.

The saltwater this year has only affected yields and crop growth [and not destroyed them], he said.

To avoid losses due to saltwater and lack of water in future, the district authorities have warned farmers not to switch to new crops in areas where availability of irrigation water is uncertain.

Tran Be Tu, deputy chairman of the district People’s Committee, said proper restructuring of crops, aquaculture and animal husbandry and the adoption of advanced techniques have improved yields and output.

Output has increased from an average of VND120 million (US$5,000) per hectare per year in 2015 to VND150 million ($6,300) now.

The district’s poverty reduced in the period from 17 per cent to 3.7 per cent.

The district has established 12 co-operatives and 22 co-operative groups to help farmers expand the scale of agriculture and adopt good agricultural practices like VietGAP.

The co-operatives and co-operative groups have tied up with companies to ensure their produce meets export requirements and to secure outlets.

The district has 1,600ha of mangrove forests, 25,000ha of mudflat areas and a dense river and canal network. – VNS

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