Blueprint for outscaling low-emissions rice farming in Vietnam

The majority of methane emissions from agriculture comes from paddy rice production and livestock. Countries with large agricultural sectors, like Vietnam, are faced with the challenge to develop comprehensive plans to reduce these emissions without compromising crop production or the livelihoods of local farmers.

In order to develop rice production sustainably in Vietnam, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition is supporting the government in its efforts to move to low-carbon rice production as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. The Coalition is funding adaptive research by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) to help the government assess mitigation options, develop a plan for implementation, and measure impacts.

Why we're doing this work

Rice is a dominant and important crop for Vietnam, but traditional paddy rice production also emits a significant amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Vietnam harvests around 7.4 million hectares of rice annually, making it the world’s fifth-largest paddy rice producer. The methane emitted from rice production in Vietnam accounts for 50% of the country’s agriculture emissions and 15% of its total greenhouse gas emissions. As its contribution to fulfilling the targets of the Paris Agreement, Vietnam has committed to cutting 8-25% of its agriculture greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Vietnam’s rice sector is also vulnerable to climate change, particularly sea level rise and extreme climatic events. In 2016 severe droughts caused a more than a billion tons of lost rice production and GDP growth in the sector fell below 2%, the lowest in 30 years.

Vietnam is actively exploring ways to make rice production more climate-friendly to contribute to global greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

What we're doing

The Coalition is funding research to explore how the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation technique can be applied in Vietnam to reduce methane emissions from rice production, in line with its NDC.

The findings will help to inform decisions about designing, financing and implementing the expansion of the AWD technique throughout the country.

Project activities completed to date include:

Suitability mapping

Image: Seasonal suitability map developd during the project

CCAC partners assessed the suitability for AWD application in the An Giang province. The AWD suitability analysis consisted of 4 steps:

  1. Climatic Suitability Maps: The planted area of rice was mapped based on statistic data, rice calendars and remote sensing images. Climatic factors including rainfall, potential evapotranspiration and soil percolation rate of rice land were then used to assess the water balance.
  2. Adoption Capacity Maps: Factors that influence the adoption capacity for AWD were evaluated. Factors and their influences were identified through discussions with key personnel from local agencies under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and researchers from national research institutes. Five influencing factors were taken into account, including: topography of the area, canal irrigation infrastructure, drainage capability, farmer awareness of the technology, and cooperative authority (below).  
  3. Overall AWD Suitability Maps: Seasonal climatic-suitability maps and adoption capacity maps were combined to generate overall suitability maps.

  4. Participatory Verification: Overall AWD suitability maps were verified through a participatory feedback process conducted with participation of provincial and district officials of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

To date, these maps are the best reference to support AWD implementation plans in An Giang province. The suitability mapping process can now be applied to other provinces in Vietnam as well as in other countries.

Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA)

As part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the CCAC supported the review of Vietnam’s NDC.

Research applying the marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) method was used to compare different technologies based on mitigation potential and cost effectiveness. Mitigation options were ranked according to their potential cost effectiveness and clearly showed AWD as a strategy that is both cost effective and has high mitigation potential.

With the support of the CCAC, IRRI contributed to this research through the study on “ Reviewing Vietnam’s Nationally Determined Contribution: A New Perspective using the Marginal Cost Abatement”. Study findings show that AWD in the Mekong Delta has a mitigation potential of 25.27 MtCO2 eq at a marginal benefit of about USD23.7/tCO2 eq. In the Red River Delta, the mitigation potential of AWD is comparable but the marginal benefit is USD17.6/tCO2eq. The fees applied to irrigation water affect the overall cost- effectiveness of AWD. If higher fees make water costly, AWD is more cost-effective which increases the likelihood of adoption among farmers.

Emissions calculations

The Source-selective and Emission-adjusted GHG Calculator (SECTOR) tool for Cropland, developed by IRRI through funding from the CCAC, has been used to assess greenouse gas emissions for Thailand's rice NAMA.

MRV- Measurement, Reporting and Verification

The CCAC and IRRI will begin development of a normative Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) framework and support tools to help countries meet the reporting requirements for NAMAs.

This framework will contribute to Vietnam’s MRV system. This entails working with the national and local governments and implementing agencies to develop an MRV system that meets the following objectives: improve the basis of information and the monitoring of rice-related mitigation actions, coordinate individual mitigation activities (such as bottom-up actions / policies, top-down goals), and track emission reductions.

Vietnam project roadmap. Source: CCAFS

Investment plan

Building on the tools for suitability mapping of mitigation options, CBA, the Coalition supported IRRI to develop an investment plan which identifies potential sources to finance the NDC activities for Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The investment plan identifies the different cost items for AWD outscaling.

Pollutants (SLCPs)