On 29 November 2016 a workshop was organised in Can Tho, Vietnam, to mark the beginning of a new phase in the Mangroves and Markets (MAM) project. The event offered an opportunity for key stakeholders to share past experiences and discuss the plans for scaling up integrated mangrove-shrimp farming along the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta.
The expansion of shrimp aquaculture is a major driver of mangrove deforestation in southern Vietnam, increasing the region’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Since 2013, with funding from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Environment Ministry (BMUB), the MAM project has been supporting smallholder shrimp farmers in Ca Mau province to switch to sustainable integrated mangrove-shrimp farming systems in order to enhance the stability and profitability of the aquaculture sector, while reversing mangrove losses. In the second phase of the project (2016 – 2020), the aim is to replicate and scale up the model along the coasts of Ca Mau, Ben Tre, and Tra Vinh provinces, which together contain half the mangroves in the Mekong Delta.
SNV and co-implementer the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) organised a workshop to launch Phase II. The event attracted over 70 participants, representing Ca Mau, Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces; the Naturland organic certification scheme; Global Aquaculture Alliances; international certification service companies; BINCA seafood group; seafood processing companies; research institutes; NGOs and farmer groups. The workshop was co-chaired by the Vice Chairman of the Ca Mau Provincial People’s Committee (PPC), Mr. Le Van Su, which showed the high level of attention and importance accorded to the project by the PPC.
Through a wealth of presentations and an interactive Questions and Answers session, the workshop provided a space for participants to reflect on past developments and discuss the way forward. Project manager Thuy Nguyen outlined the main goals of Phase II, including extending the training programme to 5000 shrimp farmer households, strengthening the mangrove-shrimp value chain, supporting key actors along the chain to achieve sustainable development, enhancing the role and responsibility of businesses, and mainstreaming Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) on sustainable shrimp aquaculture into national and provincial development plans.
Other speakers presented new research findings on mangrove-shrimp production, provided updates on policy measures, outlined the principles and challenges of organic certification, and proposed strategies for scaling up the programme.
A recurrent topic of discussion was the importance of access to stable and profitable organic markets. Identified challenges included saturation of markets and low market prices in Europe, a lack of organic aquaculture standards in the United States and Japan, and competition from Latin American producers. Some of the potential solutions put forward involved looking into additional certification schemes and tapping into domestic markets.
"One of the key factors to MAM’s success in Ca Mau was the development of effective market linkages. The Provincial People’s Committee of Ca Mau is committed to supporting any new certification programmes, in addition to Naturland, in order to ensure shrimp farmers in the region continue to have access to high end markets — now and in the future.” - Mr. Le Van Su, Ca Mau Provincial People's Committee
The highlight of the workshop was the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding with two new companies on achieving certification for 2016 – 2017. This milestone underlines the commitments of the private sector, provincial leaders and the MAM project towards greater collaboration in order to achieve sustainable development at scale.
“We are delighted to join the MAM project today and look forward to bringing more organic shrimp to the world market, achieve sustainable profits and help smallholder farmers protect their land against the impacts of climate change. I will be fully confident once we have established stable linkages to organic markets" - Mr. To Tan Hoai, Representative of Seaprimexco