Recently Vietnamese agriculture expert Le Thi Xuan Thu, asked farmers in the five Vietnamese provinces about their current manure management practices and the bottlenecks for improving it. Her final remark underlines the importance of a well-trained extension service with qualified extension workers. “Farmers with access to active extension services show a strong willingness to practice integrated manure management, including producing biogas and using bioslurry for crop fertilization.” She continues: “Even without subsidies farmers are willing to invest in bio-digesters. Farmers with mixed crop-livestock systems are willing to invest on bio-slurry pits and related facilities so that they can store sufficient slurry and use it for their crops efficiently.”
But it is not all ‘milk and honey’. Currently most Vietnamese landless livestock farmers discharge manure to the sewage system. Many farmers with bio-digesters lack the labor to transport and apply their bioslurry to their crops on often faraway fields; in which case they also discharge the slurry. Some farmers with a mixed crop-livestock system collect solid manure and make compost.
So, what are the drivers for integrated manure management? Thu: “Farmers inherited knowledge in manure management and farming practices from their ancestors. But the economic and environmental circumstances have changed.” According to Thu many farmers first cite the health benefits of bio-digestion. Secondly, the biogas and bioslurry help to reduce household expenses and synthetic fertilizers purchase. Biogas production is currently the main intervention through which farmers deal with manure in Viet Nam.
To improve the livelihoods of local farm communities Thu stresses the need for a combination of environmental standards and regulations, and agricultural programs in which the development of an extension system plays an important part.
A step further up the awareness ladder is the linkage between integrated manure management with food security and climate change. Thu is clear on that: “Not many farmers are aware of climate change. Food security and climate change issues are normally introduced to farmers via extension trainings and mass media. In communities with an active extension service, farmers do have some general knowledge about the issues.”
Le Thi Xuan Thu’s farm visits in five provinces were part of the Vietnamese Opportunity for Practice Change. The identified bottlenecks will subsequently be addressed in a training of 100 extension workers. Hereafter these extension workers will disseminate this knowledge in field-based-schooling sessions to an estimated 4,000 farmers.
The trainings are a concerted action of SNV Viet Nam and the Vietnamese National Biogas Program.