Seminar on “Capacity to Response to Climate Change of Farmers”

Climate change (CC) has seriously affected agricultural production and livelihoods of millions of farmers in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Therefore, farmers in the region have to choose how to respond to climate change. Without the appropriate response measures, they risk falling into poverty. However, even if the action is determined, the behavior of farmers to cope with climate change can also be distorted due to the lack of information and market imperfections.

In fact, the differences in the perception of each farmer toward CC will affect the decision to select one's response. Moreover, the cost of different response measures vary and there are also measures that are beyond the financial capacity of many farmers. Therefore, there is a need for government intervention in the case of farmers' inability to cope with climate change due to the lack of knowledge and/or the high cost of response measures. The selection to find the appropriate intervention should be based on empirical analysis of behavior, capacity to respond, and with it the vulnerability and resilience of farmers to CC. This is particularly important for sensitive and strategic regions in terms of economics, politics, social and the environment, such as the Mekong Delta (MD) of Vietnam.

Under the sponsorship of the Australia Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), project "Evaluating the ability of farmers to cope with climate change - policy options" were implemented in Vietnam and China, focusing on social science issues in the process of researching on CC and climate change policy debates at both countries, thereby brought forward policy recommendations to enhance the adaptive capacity of people to CC.

The project had organized an investigation on loop farm level, on a large enough scale in both Vietnam and China. In Vietnam, three surveys were conducted in late 2012, early 2015 and mid-2016 in 3 provinces (Ben Tre, Tra Vinh and Binh Dinh) with the scale of nearly 700 households, provides only a set of data with the most complete information on the impacts and adaptation to climate change of people over a period of 6 years (2010-2016). In China, a survey with similar content was also conducted in 2012 and 2013 in 9 provinces, with the scale of 3240 households. Then, the project has conducted a series of qualitative studies, from using descriptive statistical methods and econometrics to build a partial equilibrium model (CAPSim and GTAP) to assess the awareness and ability of farmers' ability to response to climate change as well as the impact of climate change in the short-term and long-term productivity and exports of major agricultural commodities in Vietnam and China.

Research results show that climate change seriously affects agricultural production in Vietnam and China. The extreme weather reduces crop yields, affecting agricultural prices and thus reduce supply elasticities prices. In both countries, besides the intervention of the State, communities and farmers also actively responded to climate change through non-structural works and measures. These responses to climate change has brought a certain efficiency in both short and long term. However, the decision to respond, different solutions and performance efficiency all depend on many factors, such as the awareness of the people and property of the household, farm size, economic benefits of individual measures as well as supportive policies and local infrastructure conditions.

At the central level, the Government of the two countries have focused on building irrigation systems (reservoirs, dams), strengthening monitoring systems, warning information and communication; technical, financial and in kind assistance. At the local level, the response is often focused on building/strengthening irrigation systems, reservoirs, dams, and capacity building through community organizations. At the household level, some common measures are applied in both countries, including rehabilitation of irrigation systems, changing the seasonal calendar, changing plant varieties, transforming the agricultural system from planting to livestock or transferring to non-agricultural activities, seeking jobs elsewhere. In addition, there are also a number of measures to respond to the characteristics of each country. For example, greenhouse cultivation, application of high-tech models to save water and agricultural insurance participation in China; or saline rinse water pump, clean the field in Vietnam. The response measures are applied more often in the years of disaster than in normal conditions. However, Vietnam's response solutions are only slightly efficient in disaster conditions but not enough to cope with major disasters.

Based on the survey results, the project has taken the policy recommendations to enhance the capacity to cope with climate change at the farm level for both countries. Governments at all levels should focus further efforts on reducing the impact of extreme weather events through assessing existing adaptive capacity to integrate into the national action plan on climate change response. Attention should be paid to raising awareness about climate change and the effectiveness of response measures, eg. upgrade the quality system of early warning information, or technical assistance to respond when disaster strikes. Besides, upgrading irrigation systems, local infrastructure also support solutions to enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers to climate change. In China, the policy recommendations emphasize more attention to subjects with little capacity to respond to climate change. Meanwhile, Vietnam should focus on developing smart agricultural systems, and application of high technology to cope with climate change.

The researchers of both countries also suggested there should be more studies to evaluate subsequent specific cost-benefit of each investment project responding to climate change to support the preparation and design before deploying this project. As for Vietnam, we should apply the same approach to conduct research for other regions in the country; combine research activities of households with market research, intervention activities connected with farmers; research to provide agricultural insurance as a risk mitigation measure for farmers. Furthermore, studies on water pricing models or smart agriculture is needed in planning the development of sustainable agriculture in the context of increasingly complex climate change.

Some pictures at the seminar: