Our landscape program in Central Highlands addresses two key issues: extreme climate events, particularly recurring droughts; and agrochemical overuse. Through these leverage points we have a positive impact on sustainable agricultural production, rural livelihoods, and economic development.

IDH is working in two of the five provinces in the Central Highlands: Lam Dong and Dak Lak, a total area of 2.3 million hectares. Covering an area of 1.1 million hectares in Lam Dong province and 1.2 hectares in Dak Lak province, our program focuses on improving farmers’ resilience against price volatility and climate; biodiversity and income diversification through intercropping and agroforestry system; responsible agrochemical use to reduce the carbon footprint (fertilizer); toxic loading and food safety (pesticides), while increasing profitability for farmers.

IDH convenes public and private stakeholders in the two provinces – government representatives at province, district, and commune level as well as the international and national coffee sourcing companies. This enables a neutral forum for working towards common objectives by developing governance systems for social and environmental sustainability and enables investment from coffee sourcing companies into field-level projects that pilot new approaches that eventually can be scaled across the region.

Case Study

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, fruits and vegetables, flowers, rubber and cashew.

Rapid growth in agricultural output in past decades, due to favorable economic policies, 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 (i) extreme climate events (in particular recurring droughts, irregular rain) and (ii) degradation of soil and water caused by toxic loading of pesticide, improper use of fertilizer and unsustainable cultivation practices.

Another threat is the high-level farmers’ resilience against price volatility of main crops, such as pepper and coffee, which has resulted the negative impacts on farmers’ income in long term.

With a focus on convening, co-funding, and sharing lessons learnt from pilots in agroforestry, irrigation, and agrochemical management, the contribution of IDH in sustainable landscape development is recognized by investors and sector associations, such as the World Bank via the VnSAT program, UNREDD, and GIZ. At local level, in 2018, beside the development of Green Growth Action Plan for Lam Dong province, groundwork to introduce and convene local authorities, private sector driving and financing applications of models at scale across jurisdiction via PPI compacts was carried out. In December 2018, Lac Duong district became the first pilot of PPI concept in Vietnam, while 2 more PPI Compacts are going to be established in 2019.

At field level, companies, such as SIMEXCO, LDC and ACOM, show interest in IDH’s work on service delivery models, such as soil tests and fertilizer recommendations, pesticide spraying teams, and bulk purchase for quality input material. One Service Delivery Model (SDM) was initiated in 2018 and the business case for investing in the large-scale provision of these services will be advised to stakeholders.

Lam Dong Province is one of our focus areas where we aim to link agricultural productivity to safeguarding the province’s natural resources. In close collaboration with the private sector operating in the area, the provincial and national governments, knowledge partners and NGOs, IDH is supporting the provincial government to develop a Green Growth Plan based on strategies to increase the production of agricultural commodities while restoring and/or conserving water resources and forests.  This Plan will be supported by a land use plan, detailing how the various strategies spatially reinforce one another.

IDH convenes private sector companies and government organizations in the provincial Landscape Steering Committee in Lam Dong. One of the key outcomes of the work of the Steering Committee is a (draft) long-term vision for sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in 2025, with medium-term targets for 2020. This was the basis for the Green Growth Plan that was developed in 2018.

Related to the Steering Committee are two technical working groups on water and (agro)forestry, with participation of knowledge institutions, technical government and company staff. These discuss the design, (intermediate) results, and recommendations of the different pilot projects of the landscape program and beyond.

These activities will be scaled by replication to other provinces.


  • Through the Steering Committee and Water Working Group, IDH is convening stakeholders to identify the biggest risks, pilot solutions, and develop conditions for scaling these up – including an enabling policy- and regulatory framework.
  • On the latter element, we are supporting the Government of Vietnam in implementing elements in its (draft) irrigation law, including irrigation water pricing and PPP investment in irrigation infrastructure and services.

Field-level projects

Piloting options to adapt farms to droughts and to ensure water is used responsibly (both in Lam Dong and Dak Lak provinces):

  • Water harvesting in sloping areas, among others by the development of ponds and reservoirs as a cascade system managed by communities
  • Efficient irrigation systems, such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. The systems are not new, but their application at small scale coffee farms is not widespread. The pilots will hence also look at the financial and technical feasibility of the application of these systems on small coffee farms.
  • Installing water flow meters to make farmers more aware about the amount of water they use for irrigation and to make more accurate recommendations to the farmer about water use
  • Water pricing, will be piloted with an agricultural cooperative producing vegetables.

Piloting adaptation options in the area of forestry/agroforestry which are closely related to the water issues:

  • Integrate drought-tolerant and economically useful tree species within existing coffee farms, to provide shade for the coffee crop, improve micro-climate conditions; provide additional income for farmers.
  • The coordination of different water & (agro)forestry adaptation measures at a landscape level. We do this by developing a detailed land-use plan in a district and commune where coffee is produced.

The (intermediate) results from our pilot projects feed back into the governance work.


  • Convening via Agrochemicals Task Force
  • IDH assigned Fresh Studio to conduct an issue and baseline analysis of agrochemical use across different crops in Lam Dong, which serves as a basis for planning further field-level and governance interventions.

Field-level projects

First pilot in Ea Tan Cooperatives, mini landscape concept, which requires the cooperation and collaboration between all stakeholders (farmers, local government and local communities) during decision making process, has shown visible impact on creation of sustainable commodity production and natural resource conservation. The approach has been adopted by public and private sectors and through public-private investment, the mini-landscape approach will be scaled-up from the 70 ha achieved in 2018 to a minimum of 400 ha in 2019 and 600 ha in 2020 in 3 PPI compacts. 

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