Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Van Bo
President, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS), Vietnam
Vietnam is one of world”s richest agricultural regions and is the second-largest rice exporter. Geospatial Media met with Nguyen Van Bo, President of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, to find out the strategy behind transforming Vietnam from a net food importing one to a top ranking exporter of many commodities.
What are the agriculture-focused activities and mandate of the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS)?
Our main mandate is to provide comprehensive visions, strategic directions and R&D programs in agricultural sector, apart from conducting basic and applied research, technology transfer and post-graduate training. Our activities include plant protection, field crops management, agricultural environment, soil and fertilizer, agro-forestry, technology development, agricultural extension, horticulture, and others.
How does geospatial technology contribute in these activities?
In general, we use GIS for geostatistics, interpolation and modelling; GPS for samples collection; remote sensing for location mapping; and webmap for information dissemination. Geospatial technologies greatly assist us in land evaluation in different scales (national, regional, provincial and district) for proposing suitable land use planning/agricultural development; development of Geographical Indicator (GI) for traditional indigenous crops; and assessing nutrient demands for promoting efficient regional fertilizer-use management. We use webmap for transferring fertilizer recommendation to farmers, fertilizer traders, fertilizer producers and administrators; and remote sensing and geostatistic for identifying geographic hotspots of human-induced land degradation in Vietnam and their social-ecological types.
VAAS is doing various agricultural projects in collaboration with Korea, Japan, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, etc. What is the role of geospatial technology in these projects?
We have many collaboration projects with the mentioned organisations. One project that involved big geospatial component is “The land-use planning and analysis system (LUPAS) for sub-national and regional land use planning in India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam under the Systems Research Network for Eco-regional Land Use Planning in Tropical Asia’’ (SysNet) since 1999. Geospatial technologies were required in this project to analyse and present spatial variation of observed variables. The technologies also support policy recommendations and policy pre-test through analysing scenarios especially in providing policy makers with dynamic land use planning.
Is there any policy in Vietnam to mandate applications of geospatial technology in agriculture?
Vietnam government has released many policies to mandate applications of geospatial technology in agriculture which aims to transfer information to producer faster and in productive ways. In agriculture, the government pays high attention on rice production, especially in terms of flood, diseases, yield and effects of climate change on rice production. To quickly respond to the requirement of the government for rice production, we need to apply geospatial technology and therefore we need the support from government to encourage all stakeholders to participate in solving the issues.
Agricultural cooperatives have changed from the production-oriented management into service-oriented models. During the renovation period (from 1986), households are considered as key production unit and land allocated to farmers. These policies have played their role until now and turned Vietnam from a net food import country to the top ranking export of many commodities. And, thanks to the renovation policy, farmers are more interested in new technologies, because they are allowed to produce whatever they want. Apart from that, there is also increasing investment in improving infrastructure, especially in water resource works and irrigation capacity; and strengthening science and technology, especially in breeding new crops varieties and animal breeds.
Vietnam has an outstanding telecom infrastructure. Do you plan to use mobile phone as one way to empower farmers with latest innovative technologies?
We are now proposing a project in collaboration with IRRI about applying telecom infrastructure for fertilizer recommendation for rice using webmap and mobile. Our target is to have “Alo Farmers” in the near future.
Vietnam has online knowledge banks of rice, maize and coffee. How are such initiatives leveraging the power of GIS?
The online knowledge banks are integrated with GIS to generate useful information for farmers and other stakeholders in the form of online maps, such as warning of climate changes, especially sea level rise and diseases for crop production.
How do you ensure that these information and initiatives reach the farmers who are less educated and do not have good exposure to Internet?
Farmers can learn how to reach to this information via training courses conducted by agricultural extension agencies in locals or they could take assistance from their children who are educated and have better exposure to internet. In Vietnam, most farmers can easily access to internet at public internet shops in their commune. For remote areas without internet access, we compiled knowledge banks in CD and distribute to farmers through our regional research institutions or extension network.