It's already a month ago since my internship started and I have experienced many things. I will try to summarize it to not keep you reading for too long. My internship is at the Centre of Water Management and Climate Change shortened also called WACC. The WACC is one of the departments of the national university of Vietnam which is located about 18 km from the centre. Try to imagine how big HCMC is, just to get from the city centre to the outer parts of the city takes about half an hour by car. Luckily, the university has an private shuttle bus. But the shuttle bus already leaves at 7 am in the morning. To make it in time I have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning. In the Netherlands it would still be quite in HCMC this isn’t the case. Just take one step outside and it is already bustling with people which are all up and about. You could call HCMC a sleepless city.
Back to my internship, at about 7.30 am we reach the office. The first thing I noticed is that it is a large building. However if you walk inside you will see many empty rooms. Later on, I discovered that you see a lot of buildings where only a few rooms are used. This is due to the fact that large building are a status symbol. The same can be said about large motorbikes. The bigger the higher your status which means that also very small Vietnamese drive a large motorbike. Sometimes small females even need to wear high heels to be able to get on. In addition, you see almost no bicycles or walkers in HCMC since they regard it as a way of transportation for the poor. To be honest I love to walk here since there are many sidewalks which are broad and nice. Only crossing a road can sometimes be challenging as I mentioned in my last story.
Again, I got side tracked. So, what is my internship about. I am helping the centre with observation and interview during field trips we make to the Mekong Delta. I have gone twice to An Giang province and after the holidays here, I will be going to Tra Vinh province. An Giang is a province in the upper part of the Mekong Delta where they have problems with floods in the wet season. The floods make it difficult to grow anything and during the flooding season farmers are practicing or freshwater aquaculture or they cultivate floating rice or leave their fields be.
About floating rice, it is a very interesting way of cultivation since it is good for soil fertility. Floating rice however has many requirements which need to be met, making it difficult to grow. For example, if the floods are too heavy and the water flows to fast, the crop can be taken with the flood and farmers lose their yield. In addition, the floating rice farmers experience a lot of problems with birds and rats leading to partly failed yield.
My internship and research is however not only about floating rice, but about the agricultural diversion and transformation as a consequence of climate change and social-economic circumstance. Taking into account institutional, economical and physical aspects. To gather the information, we talk with different stakeholders like farmers and extension officers. They will give us a better understanding on the current situation and their willingness to convert to another crop or diversify. It’s really interesting to see how different communes act differently during the same situation.
Some communes have a high motivation in if the government would allow it they would convert from rice to vegetables. I write “if the government would allow it” since there is a food policy in place which prevent most farmers from changing from rice to another cultivation type. On the other hand other communes are more satisfied with their current situation and want to keep on cultivating rice any way.
The reason for difference in motivation could be that the farmers in the last commune can cultivate triple rice which has a decent yield while the other commune has a higher impact from the floods and can only cultivate double rice. The difference between triple rice (3 seasons) and double rice (2 seasons) is the amount of times they cultivate rice a year. Around triple rice there are a lot of questions since the yield the third time is lower and the third crop can have a bad influence on the soil fertility. However, I already wrote a lot and it’s time to wrap this up. But before I go I will explain the picture, on the picture you can see a vegetable farm with bitter cucumber (common crop type here) and really bitter as the name suggests. In the back, you can find a field of taro which is a root vegetable.
Write to you soon,