The Central Highlands region has a population of 5.46 million and is home to approximately 45 different ethnic groups. It covers an area of 5740 ha, accounting for a significant (16,3%) portion of Vietnam. More than half of this area is covered in forest, making it the most densely populated part of the country. Moreover, the highly fertile land, a quarter of which is basalt, is ideal for growing perennial crops and the area is rich in minerals such as coal, bauxite, iron, zinc and rock crystals. The Central Highlands is thus vital for the production of some of the country’s key agricultural and forestry commodities including coffee, pepper, rubber, cashew, tea and cocoa.
The agricultural development in the Central Highlands has contributed greatly to boosting economic growth in Vietnam. Through economic liberalization and government leadership, Vietnam has become the world’s second largest exporter of coffee and top producer of pepper globally. However, the intensive agricultural development is exacerbating ecosystem degradation and mounting pressure on the services the Central Highlands provide to the economy and the communities in the landscape. The main challenges include diminishing water supply, deforestation, land degradation and improper use of agro-chemicals.
Different factors are contributing to decreasing surface water availability, which has made farmers shift toward groundwater usage for agricultural production at very low costs. At present ground water makes up more than 55 percent of irrigated water in the region and the area is under extreme over-irrigation, leading to severe declines in the ground water table, fundamental to the sustainability of key crops such as coffee.
Rapid population growth due to migration, favorable natural conditions and high coffee prices creates additional demand for land in the Central Highlands – a demand that has partly been met by clearing forests. The reduced forest cover leads, among others, to increased soil erosion.
Unsustainable farming practices have degraded and polluted the soil. Land erosion due to deforestation is another problem, which causes low agricultural yield and low product quality and will hurt farmer incomes.
Improper use of agrochemicals, especially pesticides, degrades the soil, pollutes water, harms human health and leads to high production cost and lower competitiveness of agricultural sector. Therefore, this needs to be tackled at national level and translated into the landscape.
The four issues of water, deforestation, land degradation and improper use of agrochemicals are strongly interlinked. ISLA plays an important role in clarifying these relationships in a systematic way. In order to address these issues effectively, ISLA recognizes that:
On February 9, over 100 participants from all over the globe gathered in Amsterdam to learn from each other how to build multi-stakeholder coalitions for sustainable landscapes where forests are protected and productivity enhanced. This was the first meeting of its kind since the IDH Landscape Program was initiated in 2014.
February 9 the IDH Forum DRIVING BUSINESS SOLUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPES was held in Amsterdam. Designed as a catalyzer for innovative solutions, over 100 high level representatives from 11 landscapes in Africa, Asia and Latin America built on each others experiences to drive new landscape business solutions. Check out: #IDHforum
Following a successful call for proposals in the first quarter of 2016, the ISLA team in Vietnam is preparing to implement the first projects later this month.
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