Seeing is Believing
Land is scarce in Tan Son district in North Central Vietnam, and growing enough food to last throughout the year is a challenge. It is no wonder that farmers are hesitant to adjust their practices without proof that it will work. The Tan Son program is working to provide the needed proof, and farmers are slowly changing their practices.
One of the major changes that is already being seen across the area is the use of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Farmers who are using it seem convinced that the wider spacing and use of a single seedling per planting station are making a difference and increasing their yields. The main question most farmers still struggle with is about the amount and type of fertilizer they should use.
Fertilizer helps plants to grow well, so many farmers figure that more fertilizer is better, and use as much as they can afford. The Tan Son program is encouraging farmers to experiment with three different approaches. The first is to use as much as the farmer can afford. The second is the amount recommended by the local extension agent, applied at three different times during the growing season. The third is one application of slow-release fertilizer at a low dosage. Each approach was modeled across several villages, allowing farmers to observe the resulting yields and decide for themselves which method works best.
Cuong experimented with a single application of slow-release fertilizer. Using this method, she produced enough rice to last her family throughout the year. After seeing a 70% increase in her production with reduced fertilizer, she is enthusiastic about using this method again.
Uyen followed the advice of the district agriculture consultant and used three applications of fertilizer. While she saw a 29% increase in production, she suspects it is from her switch to SRI, since she used the same fertilization method as before. She plans to experiment with several types of fertilizer during the next growing season to determine which works best.
Tim used both slow release fertilizer and compost. Her yield has doubled thanks to the use of SRI. One of her fields did not do well since fertilizer runoff from a neighbor’s overuse affected her field. This helped her to conclude that it is very important not to overuse fertilizer.
A member of the Kim Thuong Commune Project Management Committee noted that the program has been instrumental in helping people learn to use fertilizer appropriately and enabling them to grow enough rice through SRI to meet their food security needs.
Vietnam Tan Son program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and People’s Committee of Tan Son District
6 Communities, 512 Households, 2,212 Individuals