A pilot project aimed at using mangrove forests to mitigate erosion in a coastal village in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has come to a fruitful end.
The three-year project conducted in Hon Dat District's Vam Ray Village has inspired poor residents affected by salinization and erosion with hopes that similar projects will help mitigate these problems across the country.
Starting in 2008, the US$2.3 million project was funded by the Australian Government's Overseas Aid Program (AusAID) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The success of the project has recently prompted the German and Australian governments to grant an additional $38.4 million for the extended Climate Change and Coastal Ecosystems Program (CCCEP)--which will last five years.
The programs will begin in the Mekong Delta provinces of Kien Giang, An Giang, Ca Mau, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu, starting in July.
Vam Ray story
Lam Thi Nga, 46, has lived in Vam Ray for 25 years. In 2006, a sea dike broke and saltwater flooded her fruit orchard. The tidal floods ruined her shrimp and fish ponds.
Nga said sea water began flooding into her home twice a month, between July and October.
But things changed in 2008, when builders began work on a 1.5 kilometer dike and planted mangroves in front of her house.
The project was conducted on an area of 3.36 hectares in Vam Ray.
"Thanks to the new dike and mangrove forests, sea water cannot penetrate into the village anymore," Nga said.
Nga has since planted sugarcanes and raised fish to make a living.
"Last year, I earned VND71 million ($3,400) from the 70 tons of sugarcane harvested on a one-hectare plot of land.
"I am raising fish in three ponds, with funding from the district women's union, and I am no longer afraid that sea water will sweep away everything like it did before."
Nga is one of 14 households, on the west coast of Kien Giang Province, that benefit from the anti-erosion project, which uses mangrove forests and ocean dikes to prevent harmful erosion.
The pilot project in Vam Ray used methods that suited the locals in the Mekong Delta.
Nguyen Tan Phong, a technical officer for the project, said that the village has tried several methods to prevent erosion and protect sea dikes before.
"It cost up to VND30 billion ($1.4 million) for each kilometer of concrete sea dikes, but the dikes still break down every year.
"The pilot project,which was based on the initiatives of local farmers, has reduced the costs of the dikes."
He said the farmers came across an idea to use cajuput trees (a species native to the Mekong Delta) as pylons for the dikes. These poles were connected with bamboo-made slats and fishing nets to create a "wall" against sea waves and, at the same time, maintain the muddy substrate that is necessary for the mangrove forests to thrive.
"I usually call farmers "barefoot scientists" because they come up with such practical ideas," Phong said.
The 14 households in Vam Ray Village are now helping to cultivate a plantation of cajuput trees along the coastline to help prevent salinization.
Sharon Brown of The University of Queensland, Australia is serving as a chief technical advisor on the project.
She believe the pilot project could be applied to other regions in Vietnam and neighboring countries like Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, which face similar threats from climate change.
Kien Giang's biosphere reserve is among the largest in Southeast Asia. The 1.1-million-ha reserve includes U Minh Thuong National Park, Phu Quoc National Park and the coastal protective forests of Hon Dat, Kien Luong and Kien Hai.
Kien Giang's 205 kilometer coastline is covered with mangrove forests, which play an important role in minimizing the impacts of rising sea levels.