Climate change in Vietnam means more frequent droughts and unpredictable weather. Farmers from Bac Ai, who have worked the land their whole lives, must adjust on the fly to shifting weather conditions. Oxfam America and the local government are helping farmers adjust by building a new reservoir and providing training sessions on new farming techniques.
Hardest hit: Survival strategies form the frontlines of climate change
Narrated by Majora Carter
HUYNH KHANH HOA [Water Management Expert, Bac Ai]
In the future, with more changes in the climate, there will be more droughts.
NGUYEN THI THU THUY [Aid Worker, Vietnam]
Because of the climate change, droughts almost happen every year, with different levels of severity. The people suffer a lot.
CHAMALÉA BAC [Community Leader]
I’m highly concerned about global warming and the impacts of climate change. The weather changes make it hard to determine when it is time to plant crops.
Vietnam: Hanoi: Bac Ai
Southeast Asia is known for its floods. But the unpredictable weather caused by climate change has also led to devastating droughts. In Vietnam, farmers who depend on rainfall to irrigate their crops struggle to earn a living and feed their families. The situation is especially difficult in the Bac Ai district in the Ninh Thuan province. This area has the hottest temperatures, least rainfall, and some of the worst poverty rates in all of Vietnam.
NGUYEN THI THU THUY
Bac Ai is one of the 61 poorest districts in the country, which received special attention from the government. More than 60 percent of the people in this district are living on an income of less than 12 dollars per month.
I have lived here for more than 30 years; my family is a farming family. I am highly concerned about global warming and the impacts of climate change, because it has not only affected me, but also my community. Everybody is affected.
The Rag Lai people, an ethnic minority who make up most of the Bac Ai population, are among the hardest hit.
PI-NANG THI GIAO [Rice and Cashew Farmer]
My husband and I have a rice field, but we do not get much from it. We have five months of dry season and only two to three months of rainy season. Sometimes it rains too much, sometimes it rains too little.
While many Vietnamese people are accustomed to managing floods, the Rag Lai people find dealing with droughts to be the real challenge.
PI-NANG THI MAI [Commune Chairwoman]
Climate change affects the people here, especially those that depend on agriculture for their incomes. When it’s too sunny, there’s no grass for the cows. Rice and corn die when there’s too much sun. The water resources are drying out.
After the drought, our family lost two and a half acres of corn and two and a half acres of rice. We lost two cows. People didn’t have fresh water, so we had to take water from the streams, which is a little more than a half-mile walk from here. The quality of the water was bad; it caused skin diseases and stomach disease.
The Rag Lai people are working to adapt to harsher growing conditions. With the help of the government, they are bringing more clean water to their communities, and they are learning how to cultivate crops and raise animals that can survive dry spells.
HUYNH KHANH HOA
When this reservoir is completed, we can be in more control: increasing the water for irrigation when it is needed, or reducing it when it is not.
NGUYEN THI THU THUY
The local government provides the construction of the big reservoir, and from Oxfam’s side, we support them with training to the local people to enable them to manage the water system effectively.
The local farmers are growing hardier crops, like certain varieties of rice, cashews and corn.
KATOR CHUONG [Rice and Cashew Farmer]
In the morning, my wife and I work on the rice field, and later we work in the cashew garden. Most of our food comes from the rice field. Oxfam’s training showed us a technique for growing rice. I know more now. Before, I didn’t know when it was the best time to plant the rice in the ground, and when to stop planting.
And in Bac Ai, they’re also raising different breeds of livestock that need less water and fodder.
PI-NANG KHUYEN [Cow Farmer]
My name is Pi-nang Khuyen, I’m 22 years old and I’m a cow farmer. I don’t have much education because my parents are poor. I’m happy to have the cow; once she gives birth, life will be easier. I chose to raise a cow because it is easier to take care of than other animals. The cow survives the dry season better here. I have to feed other livestock and give water three to four times a day. But for the cow, it’s only two times a day.
For communities that have worked the land for generations, these strategies have helped make responding to the changing climate conditions easier. Using their new skills, the reservoir and irrigation canals, farmers can continue to provide for their families doing what they know best: farming.
We are learning how to adapt to climate changes. We are beginning to understand how to change our farming and crops. People are learning better ways to plant and raise livestock. All of this has contributed to increasing the incomes of the local people.