An Investigation of the Role of Social Dynamics in Conversion to Sustainable Integrated Mangrove-Shrimp Farming in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam

Nguyen, Phuong; Rodela, Romina; Bosma, Roel; Bregt, Arnold; Ligtenberg, Arend


In the coastal area of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, much of the mangrove forest has been cut to make space for expansion of industry and aquaculture. Exportoriented shrimp farming is a particularly fastgrowing business. Nonetheless, the importance of tropical mangrove forest ecosystems for coastal protection and marine biodiversity is widely recognized. The Vietnamese government, supported by nongovernmental organizations and donors, has sought to restore mangrove forest. To this end, the government has promoted mixed or integrated mangroveshrimp systems in which farmers maintain at least 40 per cent of their area under mangrove cover. Since 2012, mangrove reforestation, care and protection has benefited from local authority stimulus as well. Multiple studies have examined the condition of the mangrove forest in Ben Tre and other coastal provinces of the Mekong Delta. However, no research has investigated the role of social dynamics in farmers willingness to shift to, or maintain, integrated mangroveshrimp systems. Specifically, the influence of information, group dynamics and social learning on farmer decisionmaking is poorly understood and, indeed, hardly investigated in Vietnam. This article reports on a study of social processes in three communes in Binh Dai District, Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. We conducted 42 semistructured interviews (with 34 farmers and eight local officials) and used secondary data. Our preliminary findings indicate that social dynamics in these communes were issuedriven and played an important role in farmers decisions to adopt, or convert to, the integrated mangroveshrimp farming system. Television, radio, the internet, books, neighbours and training courses all had some influence in farmer decisionmaking processes. However, our findings suggest that the accessibility, usefulness, relevance and approach of these communication methods must be improved if they are to adequately inform and support local farmers.