Publications

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

Summary

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. Export‐oriented shrimp farming is a particularly fast‐growing business. Nonetheless, the importance of tropical mangrove forest ecosystems for coastal protection and marine biodiversity is widely recognized. The Vietnamese government, supported by non‐governmental organizations and donors, has sought to restore mangrove forest. To this end, the government has promoted mixed or integrated mangrove‐shrimp 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 mangrove‐shrimp systems. Specifically, the influence of information, group dynamics and social learning on farmer decision‐making 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 semi‐structured interviews (with 34 farmers and eight local officials) and used secondary data. Our preliminary findings indicate that social dynamics in these communes were issue‐driven and played an important role in farmers’ decisions to adopt, or convert to, the integrated mangrove‐shrimp farming system. Television, radio, the internet, books, neighbours and training courses all had some influence in farmer decision‐making 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.