Katrina Swanston l Business Partnerships Platform - Apr 10 2024
From Mangroves to Markets: Tackling Climate Adaptation in Vietnam’s Food Basket

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is home to more than 21 million people and produces over 50% of the country’s food. Agriculture and aquaculture are the main livelihoods for the communities living there.

Like so many places, the Delta is facing an uncertain future as rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns, and increasing salinity strips the land of its agricultural productivity, rendering traditional farming practices and industries obsolete. Climate change is threatening the livelihoods and food security of millions that rely on the rice, fruit, vegetables, livestock, and fisheries that the Delta delivers.

In response, the Australian Government developed an innovative partnership program, powered by the Palladium-run Business Partnerships Platform (BPP), to leverage private sector support to address the Delta’s climate challenges in line with Vietnamese priorities.

The program, called the BPP Climate Adaptation Partnerships in the Mekong Delta, is part of an AU$94.5 million investment from the Australian Government. The program kicked off in early 2023 with a search for inclusive, commercially sustainable businesses to partner with.

"The Mekong Delta is not just a vital agricultural hub; it's a lifeline for millions of people,” explains BPP Team Leader, Ariane Gauchat. “By addressing climate adaptation challenges through these partnerships, we are demonstrating how collaboration between governments, businesses and communities can drive meaningful progress towards a more resilient and sustainable future.”

In November 2023, BPP officially announced four successful partnerships, each of which plan to tackle the challenges of climate adaptation in unique, innovative ways.

Scaling Climate-Resilient Mangrove Shrimp Farming in the Mekong Delta

For local communities in the Delta’s Ca Mau province, the shrimp industry is one of the only opportunities to create a livelihood in agriculture as coastal areas become too salinated for crop production due to the impacts of climate change and human intervention. However, the aquaculture sector has traditionally led to extensive mangrove deforestation, removing a buffer against extreme weather and erosion and a natural habitat for marine life.

Through a partnership between Symmetry, Southern Shrimp JSC, Vietnam Sustainable Shrimp Alliance and the Australian Government, smallholder farmers are being trained in climate-smart farming techniques that will improve the shrimp supply chain and enhance the mangrove landscape to create a more sustainable and inclusive industry in the Mekong Delta.

Creating Sustainable Livelihoods Through Climate-Adaptive Crops

Unsustainable farming practices such as planting multiple crops the same season and the overuse of fertilisers and pesticides have been degrading the Mekong’s once nutrient-rich land, together with increasing salinity due to climate change.

The Mekong Conservancy Foundation teamed up with the Vietnam Housewares Corporation and the Australian Government to create new economic opportunities for the Delta’s agricultural communities by transforming climate-affected rice farms into the more sustainable bulrush crops. Bulrush is an ideal alternative to rice farming as it improves soil nutrients and water quality, does not require artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and can handle the very saline environment created by climate change.

The Partnership plans to use bulrush as a replacement crop for rice and shrimp aquaculture to improve soil and water quality. They’ll also manufacture the bulrush into high-quality homewares, unlocking new jobs for the local community, particularly women.

Weather-Proofing Agriculture Through Parametric Insurance

As climate change worsens, it can change weather patterns, leading to erratic rainfall and rising land and water temperatures, all of which pose significant risk to farmers.

Hillridge, an Australian start-up helping farmers mitigate the financial impact of poor weather on their crops or livestock, partnered with MSIG Vietnam and the Australian Government to design tailored and affordable parametric insurance that supports agricultural producers in the Mekong Delta to weather the region’s unique climate risks.

Using weather data based on satellite imagery, the insurance product will be built on Hillridge’s automated weather insurance platform for farmers. It automates pricing, purchasing, risk management and claims processes, reducing the minimum cover size to put drought insurance within reach for smallholder farmers and larger farms alike.

Women’s Agribusiness Climate Adaptation Accelerator

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, but also play a pivotal role in combating climate challenges. That’s why the Australian Government has teamed up with New Energy Nexus to create Vietnam’s first accelerator for women-led small and medium agribusiness enterprises that are tackling climate adaptation in the Mekong Delta.

Deltaccelerate provides direct support, tailored training, and networking opportunities for up to 16 enterprises to enhance their success and build the Mekong Delta’s resilience to climate adaptation. Enterprises that work in the Mekong Delta’s agricultural sector, which are led by or significantly benefit women and contribute to the sector’s resilience to climate adaptation have been invited to apply and the selection process is underway for the successful participants. Up to eight enterprises that successfully complete the first stage of the program will have the opportunity to scale their business through funding between AU$10,000 and AU$100,000.

Climate adaptation in Vietnam's Mekong Delta threatens not only the region's agricultural productivity but also the livelihoods of millions. The partnerships demonstrate the power of collaboration and collective action to tackle these challenges head-on, safeguarding Vietnam’s food basket and creating a more resilient and sustainable future for its communities for generations to come.

BPP supports partnerships between the Australian Government and inclusive businesses to create social and environmental impact while ensuring sustainable commercial returns and de-risking and scaling green investments. Find out more: www.thebpp.com.au