Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter after Brazil, and 95% of its coffee is produced in the Central Highlands region. This region is also vital for global and regional production of other important crops such as pepper, tea, fruit and vegetables, flowers, rubber and cashew.
Rapid growth in agricultural output in past decades is due to favorable economic policies, and has led to improvements in income and livelihoods for large portions of the population. However, the future of agricultural production and its access to export markets is threatened by extreme climate events, in particular recurring droughts. Farmers with crops such as rice, vegetables, fruit, and coffee are big users of water for irrigation in the Central Highlands area. In the dry season, water for agriculture, households and hydropower is getting scarcer and is negatively affecting the production of key crops, especially coffee and pepper.
A second threat is toxic loading of the environment and limited access to export markets because of high biocide residue levels (MRLs) in agriculture.

Market transformation

IDH focuses on two of the five provinces in the Central Highlands: Lam Dong and Dak Lak, with a total area of 2.3 million hectares. Our programs cover an area of 10,000–20,000 hectares. We focus on climate resilient, sustainable agriculture with an emphasis on: efficient water use to ensure sufficient water availability in dry seasons; crop and tree diversification to improve biodiversity and farmers’ resilience against price volatility; and responsible agrochemical use to reduce the carbon footprint (fertilizer), reduce toxic loading and food safety (biocides), and increase profitability for farmers.

Impact Focus

KPI progress 2017

  • Changing Business Practices

    Funding ratio target 2020 1
    Target 2017 1
    Result 2017 1
    IDH created a pre-competitive platform for four coffee traders and two roasters to collect and share farmer field book data. Together with these companies, IDH co-funded data collection and shared the analyses and lessons learned with the government, other donors and the global coffee sector. Coffee traders supported farmers to establish pilots on the utilization of water, agroforestry, agrochemicals and fertilizer. Weekly and monthly data were collected with the farmer field book tool to develop business cases on how to sustainable manage water and soil resources, while diversifying income, efficiently using inputs, and hence optimizing profits. Coffee traders invested in sustainable production and land management at a larger scale (group/cooperatives) and are now upscaling project interventions to achieve impacts at landscape level in our two landscapes in different ways: (i) provision of input and commitment to buy output; (ii) access to loans and financial assistance from existing programs, such as World Bank and VnSAT; and (iii) landscape design at scale of 60–400 hectares of coffee areas (the average farm size is 1-2 hectares) that apply water saving irrigation/water harvesting, agroforestry and agrochemical management in a coordinated way.
  • Landscape Governance

    Effectiveness of multistakeholder convening 2020 (not set) 0
    Target 2017 (not set) 0
    Result 7
    In 2017, IDH built consensus on a green growth plan in Lam Dong Province. Based on the relationship developed with the Provincial People’s Committee leadership in Lam Dong, a provincial working group with leaders from different departments (Planning & Investment, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment) was established in October to facilitate the development of a green growth plan with IDH and technical experts (still to be contracted). Early talks started in 2017 with other donors, including UNDP, UNEP, and GIZ to strengthen the IDH-led approach with additional funding and technical expertise. IDH helped improve management of agrochemical trade and use at local and central level. Recommendations were made based on a thorough baseline and issue analysis, and discussed in different stakeholder platforms convened by IDH, including the Provincial Steering Committee and the Agrochemical Taskforce that IDH co-chairs, and were adopted by provincial and national authorities. Recommendations on alternatives for harmful pesticides that align with the requirements of international standards were published in Lam Dong, and are advocated by policymakers at national level. In addition, the Department of Plant Protection committed to work with IDH to co-develop a smartphone app that provides farmers with the most up-to-date regulations on agrochemical trade and use, as well as information on pesticides, covering all commodities in Vietnam. The new irrigation law decree, targeting full-cost recovery of irrigation infrastructures after decades of subsidizing irrigation service fees, has been approved by the national government. To support the implementation of the new law, IDH has supported the government to develop the water allocation at regional/catchment level. IDH has developed a strong partnership with the Department for Water Resources under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and aligned with important international stakeholders, including the Asian Development Bank through their Water Efficiency Improvement in Draught Affected Provinces, the Australian Water Partnership and the Australian National University. IDH also contributed to the development of the irrigation decree, to ensure relevance for the private sector as well as making sure the right incentives for water-saving are included.
  • Field Level Impact

    # farmers/producers reached target 2020 17,000
    Target 2017 8,000
    Result 2017 9,765
    Data collection through the farmer field book tool revealed the use of banned agrochemicals by Vietnamese law and international standards. A minority of farmers (44%) spray biocides, of which 52% of farmers use biocides that are considered highly hazardous to human health and the environment. Of certified farmers, 15% of those that spray, use biocides containing active ingredients that are not allowed by UTZ and other standards. Almost 10,000 farmers were trained on climate-change resilience of coffee farming, including sub-topics such as agroforestry, agrochemical use, water-efficient irrigation, replanting, effects of climate change on the coffee farm, and farm economics based on farmer field book data collected. Trainings were conducted both in the field (on demo farms) and in classroom settings. IDH helped co-finance 63 water flow meters, 48 sprinkler and drip irrigation systems, 13 soil and air moisture measurement systems linked to an app to operate automated irrigation systems, five terraces and grass banks to improve water retention on farms, and one rainwater harvesting structure as a pilot to test the economic viability of investments in irrigation systems.

IDH supported us with creating the water pricing policy by sharing expertise and best practices on water pricing from around the world. They also helped us pilot water pricing projects in the Central Highlands.

Le Thi Kim Cuc, Director of the Directorate of Water Resources at MARD

Relevant SDGs


In Vietnam, we monitored farmer profiles of 900 coffee farmers through the farmer field book data in the coffee season of 2016-2017. Only 90 of the 900 were female, although women in farming households often work on the farm. Beyond farm ownership, gender inequality isn’t a big issue in Vietnam. For example: 60-90% of farm households have joint decision-making; the education level of male and female farmers is equal; and the gender pay gap of female hired labor on farms was negative: female workers earn more than male workers. One risk that the data revealed is that female family members are involved in pesticide spraying, an activity that can be dangerous without protective equipment, especially if women are of reproductive age. Pilots on responsible agrochemical management will start in 2018.

Lessons Learned

Project interventions should target farmer groups or cooperatives to manage interdependencies, economies of scale, and shared benefits in water management, agroforestry and input management rather than by approaching individual farms. Close cooperation with government at local and central level is vital to achieve a bigger impact. Pilots and learnings at farm level can help to inform regulation/policy/support to farm-level intervention. Pilot monitoring and data collection is required to prove the business case, in order to encourage farmers and private-sector and other supporting programs to upscale successful models.

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