Vietnam is aiming to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by switching to low-emission rice production.
Low-emission rice production is essential for Vietnam to achieve its goal of reducing methane emissions by 2030 while increasing the competitiveness of its export industry.
Vietnam’s agriculture contributes about 14 per cent of gross domestic product and about 38 per cent of employment with agricultural commodities earning the country over $48 billion per year in export revenues.
Agriculture is the second highest GHG emitting sector in Vietnam, accounting for about 19 per cent of total national emissions. About half of the agricultural sector emissions and over 75 per cent of methane emissions come from rice production. Rice is Vietnam’s most important crop, cultivated on over 54 per cent of the land and contributes over 30 per cent of total agricultural output. The country exports over six million tons of rice, earning the country over $3bn in export revenue.
However, climate change impacts are expected to result in crop yield losses from heat and droughts with production forecast to drop by over six per cent by 2030 and over 13 per cent in 2050. Vietnam’s competitiveness in agricultural exports could also be negatively affected by heightened international attention around the carbon footprint of its exported commodities.
It is therefore essential for Vietnam to transition to low-carbon rice production as a step toward sustainable low-carbon agricultural transformation.
The cost of transition to low-carbon rice is estimated at $110 per hectare while the cost of reaching net zero would be $3,890 per hectare.
The range of investment costs varies significantly depending on the status of irrigation infrastructure, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the estimated investment costs. about 67 per cent of the cost is required for upgrading critical/missing public infrastructure such as irrigation and feeder roads, 16 per cent for strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development) for better quality extension service delivery, 14 per cent for farmer training, and two per cent for technical assistance including GHG measurements and reporting.
Application of digital technologies along with the agronomic technologies such as AWD and 1M5R will add further benefits. Pilots conducted in Vietnam using the internet of things (IoT)—which includes water sensors to help farmers better decide on the optimal amount of water to apply—showed a reduction in water use by up to 42 per cent compared to manual flooding of rice fields, cutting production costs by up to 22 per cent and increasing rice yield by 24 per cent.
These smart irrigation systems can reduce GHG emissions by up to 70 per cent compared to the manual system of irrigation. IoT-based systems integrate laser sensors for precise water level measurement for automation of the AWD technique for different sizes of fields. The use of such digital techniques is up-gradable by utilising sensors, wireless links and internet infrastructure due to the increasing availability and decreasing cost of these technologies.
Collaboration will be vital to ensure successful transition to low carbon agriculture and, overall, there is a need to rethink the relative roles of the public and private sectors to spearhead green, low-carbon agricultural transformation in Vietnam.