VECO Vietnam and Rainforest Alliance partner up for the sustainable management of tea landscapes in Vietnam

VECO Vietnam and Rainforest Alliance partner up for the sustainable management of tea landscapes in Vietnam

05/08/2016
in News
Charlotte Flechet
Charlotte Flechet
Food Smart Cities coordinator

Since December 2015, VECO Vietnam has taken the role of national coordinator for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Rainforest Alliance’s “Mainstreaming Sustainable Management of Tea Production Landscapes” project in Vietnam. For over two years, VECO will provide training on sustainable land management practices and work with decision-makers to improve the adoption of these management approaches in tea landscapes.

VECO Vietnam has recently taken on the role of national coordinator of the “Mainstreaming Sustainable Management of Tea Production Landscapes” project in Vietnam. As the implementing partner, VECO is in charge of planning and implementing all project activities in the country. The project, mainly funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), aims to reduce land degradation associated with tea production in Asia which will be done by supporting farmers in adopting sustainable land management and integrated natural resource management practices.

Running until February 2018, the Vietnam chapter of the project will also work to catalyse the tea industry and government leaders to mainstream these practices in their business operations and policies. The project covers five major tea landscapes in Asia: Darjeeling (India), Assam (India), Sri Lanka, Yunnan (China) and Vietnam. Overall, it aims to reach 30,000 tea farms amounting to 60,000 hectares of land. In Vietnam, it is expected that about 7,000 farmers will be trained by 50 trainers.

A shared aim towards the sustainability of the agricultural sector

Rainforest Alliance is a global non-governmental organisation working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Created in 1987, its aim is to transform land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour so that people and planet can prosper together. The organisation is mostly known for its Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, an internationally recognised symbol of environmental, social and economic sustainability, widely identified by its green frog symbol. [1]

This project is not the first collaboration between VECO Vietnam and Rainforest Alliance. Between 2013 and 2015, VECO had already been contracted by Rainforest Alliance to prepare tea companies, factories and producers for Rainforest Alliance certification, thanks to IDH, Rainforest Alliance and Unilever’s financial support. As such, VECO set up Farmer Field Schools on Good Agricultural Practices, trained 395 lead-farmers on the Sustainable Agriculture Network’s (SAN) guidelines, and helped 17 factories implement the Internal Management System (IMS) in preparation for their certification.

Mainstreaming sustainable land management in tea landscapes

This project is adopting a landscape approach to the problem of land degradation. As underlined by UNEP, this new paradigm for development “acknowledges the inherent interconnectedness of human and natural systems and the resources that underpin them.” [2] In this approach, interventions are place-based, rather than sector-based. They adopt a holistic perspective where socioeconomic and geographical strategies are mixed, with the objective of achieving social, economic and environmental objectives in areas where agricultural production competes with environmental goals. The landscape approach basically recognises that landscapes are multifunctional, meeting a wide range of needs such as water provision, air purification, pollination services, crop production for food and industry – the list goes on – and that all these elements must be managed in an integrated way.

In landscapes where tea production is a major economic activity, adopting a landscape approach implies the sustainable intensification of tea cultivation in order to bolster income for farmers, while at the same time protecting and enhancing the natural environment. This requires adopting tea production practices that preserve the local natural capital while at the same time increasing productivity and maintaining tea quality standards. In the long run, the sustainable management of these tea landscapes is expected to improve both human wellbeing and the health of natural ecosystems.

VECO Vietnam’s interventions

VECO’s work is to strengthen Rainforest Alliance’s programme in Vietnam and to facilitate the uptake of sustainable land management in the tea industry in the five provinces targeted by the project: Phu Tho, Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang, Lai Chau and Thai Nguyen. In order to enhance sustainable land management practices and to mainstream them in tea-growing landscapes, VECO will work at two levels.

First, it will work with tea companies and producer organisations to encourage the adoption of sustainable land management techniques such as mulching, compost, shade trees planting, cover crops, and tea field design. More specifically, VECO will prepare a training curriculum and conduct training activities, organise extension events, and coach technical staff and lead farmers. Sustainable land management trainings will target estate managers, company technicians, partner NGOs and service providers who will in turn train smallholder farmers with the aim of helping them to apply better production practices.

Second, VECO will share successful examples and results with the government and decision-makers in the tea industry, to support the large-scale adoption of sustainable land management practices at the tea landscape level. This phase will take place in 2017 and will involve the publication of case studies and the organisation of various events with decision-makers.

The potential benefits from applying these improved production practices for smallholder farmers are high. Current tea production in Vietnam is characterised by the intensive use of agricultural chemicals, lack of investment in production capacity, the low quality of tea leaves, and poor linkage between producers and tea factories. Thanks to GEF, Rainforest Alliance and VECO’s interventions, the sustainability and quality of farmers’ tea production will increase, which is in turn expected to enable farmers to sell tea at a better price for export markets.

VECO has already successfully carried out a national planning workshop with relevant stakeholders and has recently started its Training of Trainers activities. There is a lot of enthusiasm from tea factories to participate in the project as they are very much aware of the potential financial benefits of improved tea production and quality. VECO’s hope is that by the end of the project, the successful implementation of a sustainable land management approach will have inspired others to change their practices. As Hoang Thanh Hai, the project’s national coordinator from VECO puts it: “Replication of good practices by farmer groups that are currently outside the project would be an incredible success.”

Contact: Mr Hoang Thanh Hai, VECO Project Manager for tea, National Project Coordinator for Vietnam – [hai [at] veco.org.vn](hai [at] veco.org.vn)