Since 2010, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) has been focusing on poverty reduction and food security in the Provinces of Hoa Binh and Ha Noi. Activities concentrate on vegetables, with additional work proposed in rice and corn, depending on the site. The aim is to support smallholders in producing safe, high-quality vegetables for sale to supermarkets, thus increasing their income.
Reaching the necessary standards for urban supermarkets requires agronomic advice and the creation or improvement of screen houses. These fine mesh constructions shade the crops and protect them from a number of insect pests. Training helps smallholders successfully adopt new technology and techniques. This includes advice on the best application of crop protection products. Avoiding unnecessary residues enables them to satisfy VietGAP (Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices) protocols and supermarket quality demands, thus tapping into new sources of income. One of the projects is in a hilly area, and therefore additionally emphasizes practices that help the local corn growers avoid soil erosion. An important topic for rice farmers is the reduction of manual labor.
Local partners during the period 2010-2012 included the district farmers' association and the Northern Mountain Agriculture & Forestry Science Institute (NORMAFSI). The aim of this project was to successfully introduce and promote some new hybrid corn varieties such as NK 66, NK 67, and NK 4300, replacing traditional low-yielding varieties to help farmers make a 30 percent increase in productivity and a 25 percent increase in cultivated land. Between 2013 and 2015, the SFSA also partnered with the Hanoi Agricultural Department and Hanoi Plant Protection Sub-Department, working closely with supermarkets and helping build the smallholders' “brand” with in-store promotion.
Since 2017, SFSA has reduced the activities of this project. The SFSA has catalyzed the public and private sectors to co-invest in this successful project. This has seen an increase in farmers’ incomes and an improvement in adherence to VietGAP vegetable production standards. Large amounts of safe vegetables are now being sustainably produced and provided to consumers in Hanoi. The project has also become a model for educational purposes. Farmers from different locations participate in study tours; each year dozens of teachers and students come to practice their skills. In 2018 the project, in partnership with the National Agriculture Extension Center (NAEC) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, continued the work begun in 2016 to compile a training manual on VietGAP safe vegetable production and to organize a short course – Training of Trainers (ToT) – to practice using the manual.
By the end of 2017:
5600 tons of safe vegetables were produced and supplied to satisfied customers in several Hanoi supermarkets and boarding schools.
The project supported vegetable growers to increase their income from VND 2 million (approximately USD 88) before the project began in 2010 to VND 3.2 million (approximately USD 140) per person per month (an increase of 160 percent).
More than 3000 farmers have been trained in VietGAP safe vegetable production and the VietGAP-certified production area has increased from 2 hectares to 31 hectares.
Two enterprises (Lien Anh and Invifarm) have invested and established their own companies at production sites. This helps farmers sell their vegetables quickly and for a better price at the farm gate.
As the Tien Le brand is recognized and trusted by Hanoi consumers, this attracts to the production sites a greater number of potential vegetable purchasers. As a consequence of this, farmers are required to devote fewer hours to the sales aspect of their work and can use the time more profitably in other ways, such as in farm management or social activities.
More than 60 Vietnamese and foreign groups have visited Tien Le to learn how to adapt this project model to work in other localities.
The Foundation's Director in Vietnam, Dao Xuan Cuong, said: "One of the big successes has been obtaining VietGAP certification for safe vegetables in Tien Le, Hoaiduc district. Our projects' farmers now supply many thousands of Hanoi consumers. We are replicating this successful model in two other cooperatives at Duyenha commune, Hanoi." Cuong is understandably proud of the outcomes made possible by the Syngenta Foundation's public-private partnerships. As well as healthy food for city dwellers and good cash incomes for farmers, he also sees another advantage: "The new technologies transferred in the project help vegetable growers to use labor more efficiently," he points out. "That saves them time to pursue other activities they couldn't before."