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OPINION: Reflections on the 2012 Adaptation Forum from Vietnam

Le Hoang Anh, from the Office of Climate Change Adaptation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam reflects on her experience at the Asia Adaptation Forum, 12-13 March 2012.

Vietnam has made remarkable progress in economic and social development in recent years. However, it is one of Southeast Asia’s most disaster-prone countries given its long coastline, and is considered highly vulnerable to climate change. Impacts include an expected increase in flood and drought occurrences and/or severity, as well as damage caused by sea level rise and consequent saline intrusion into coastal urban and agricultural areas. A high proportion of the country’s population and economic assets including irrigated agriculture are located in these coastal lowlands and deltas.

Agriculture plays an important role in poverty alleviation and food security in Vietnam, and contributes around 20% of the GDP. Rice is the most important crop, grown by nearly 80% of Vietnamese farmers on roughly 45% of the country’s agricultural land and, in addition to meeting domestic demand, constitutes a major export item.

The focus of my work in Vietnam is to design effective adaptation options for agriculture and rural development. In order to successfully adapt to climate change, the livelihood opportunities for people working in agriculture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, and forestry must be strengthened. This involves Disaster Risk and Reduction measures, as well as awareness raising and capacity building. We need improved social services; changes in cultivation practices and cropping patterns; effective and efficient use of water, fertilizer and other inputs; strengthened research and development to reduce vulnerability and large-scale infrastructure investments and ‘climate proofing’ of other infrastructure. Increased climate resiliency is essential for the long term sustainable development of this sector.

Despite Vietnam’s rapid development and ongoing efforts to address climate risk, additional capacity is needed in order to address the institutional and knowledge gaps that still exist on adaptation, so it was with great interest that I attended the Adaptation Forum in Bangkok on 12-13 March 2012.

At the Adaptation Forum, I joined the panel on climate induced migration and livelihood security to learn how the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable groups can be best secured if migration happens or is necessary. I also joined the panel on disaster management and climate change which focused on how effective disaster management can support adaptation to climate change, and vice versa.

Both sessions were very useful for me and provided me with the opportunity to learn about the various options for achieving effective adaptation to climate change. There were many different perspectives from across Asia represented and learning by sharing in groups is a great way of getting new knowledge and experience. Such forums are also very useful for developing a common understanding among experts and practitioners about what adaptation means in different contexts.

I often find myself referring to things I learnt at the forum when making presentations at work and in conversations with my colleagues. Many of the common understandings in the field of adapting to climate change around the Asia Pacific region which were presented can be applied to the Vietnam context. For example, I personally learnt about the importance of using participatory and consultative approaches, but it remains a challenge for how to apply this principle for the large-scale infrastructure projects which are needed to protect lives, livelihoods and property.

I also picked up many new ideas which can be introduced in Vietnam. For example, we might need to relocate the people living on scattered homesteads in the Mekong Delta to raised land where they have access to water supplies and other services. This experience would need to be focused, critically assessed, adjusted and then scaled up further.

For me, the most important aspect of the Adaptation Forum was the sharing and learning among Asia and Pacific countries. As mentioned in the opening speech of the first Adaptation Forum in 2010, the Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand called for the cooperation of all countries to combat climate change quoting, “If you want to go somewhere fast, you go alone; if you want to go far, then we go together”.

Picture Courtesy free-bird



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