Replication data for: Diagnosis of farming systems in the Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder farmers in Northwestern Viet Nam project uri icon


  • The ‘Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder farmers in Northwestern Viet Nam' project (2011–2016) focuses on agroforestry trials on farms in the northwestern mountainous region of the country. The objective of the study was to make an inventory of the current upland farming systems and identify key strengths and weaknesses of each system, including economic efficiency. The farming system diagnosis was based on participatory assessments and focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with 45 project ‘farmer co-operators' in 17 villages in Yen Bai, Son La and Dien Bien provinces. The study covered three agro-ecozones and four ethnic groups: less than 600 masl, generally populated by Kinh (two villages); 600–800 masl, dominated by Thai (six villages) and greater than 800 masl, including H'mong and Kho Mu (nine villages). The economic assessment accounts for annual inputs and labor costs. To our knowledge, there was no previous systematic study at this scale. The inventory identified over 20 different farming sy stems. However, regardless of agro-ecozones and ethnicity, the predominant land-use on upland slopes was mono-cultivation of staple crops. Over 90% of the farmer co-operators grew maize, which was also the main source of income for 82%. The estimated economic profit of this system ranged from below VND 1 million to 12.5 million per hectare per year. The main drawback of this system was declining soil fertility and yields. In addition, upland farmers' profits were generally low, ranging from VND 2.4 million (maize) through VND 20 million (cassava with shan tea) to VND 26 million (tomato) per hectare per year. Profits were lower at higher elevations. This was because 1) in response to declining soil fertility, increased amounts of fertilizers were applied but the productivity failed to compensate for increasing production costs; 2) local varieties of hill rice and maize seem to have degenerated; 3) farmers sold unprocessed grains and tubers at low, and volatile, prices because their market access and storage capacity was limited; and 4) the estimated labour costs in this study might be overestimated for distant fields. Farmers, therefore, wanted to find alternative farming systems, however, few were aware of appropriate tree-based conservation farming practices. Certain types of agroforestry existed on a small scale, for example, home gardens with fruit trees or coffee with timber trees or fruit trees as shade (in Son La), cassava intercropped with shan tea (in Yen Bai), cardamom under forest canopy (in Dien Bien). This study identified several potential agroforestry models, for example, a combination of staple crops for short-term income, grass strips for protection from soil erosion and feed, and trees for medium-to-longer-term income. The findings of the study will help identify agroforestry systems with potential for wider adoption and will lay the groundwork for the design or redesign of effective agroforestry research in the region

publication date

  • 2016