The future of food security and climate change in Viet Nam

Scenarios, outlooks and challenges in the next 30 years

Trang này cũng có bằng tiếng Việt (PDF)

Land of the Golden Mekong

In this scenario, unification of Southeast Asia in terms of political, economic and environmental concerns slowly becomes a reality. Though challenges around urbanisation and migration initially increase, ultimately institutions become effective enough to enable improved development and environmental management. Aging populations and the lack of labour due to egalitarianism become a problem – migrants from poorer countries replace the regional population in the working class but are shunned and abused. Strength and inclusiveness of governance (at least for the autochthonic population) is the key source of the significant change in food security, livelihoods and environments that can be observed. Climate resilience is strong in that respect, though biophysical vulnerabilities remain significant, especially in the form of extreme events that still sometimes overwhelm the region’s adaptive capacity. The migrants become the most vulnerable groups.

Buffalo Buffalo; water flows uphill

In this scenario we start out in 2013 looking up. ASEAN agreements appear to be going ahead. Myanmar is starting to produce more and be more economically active. Moving to 2020 we start to see more problems: there are major corruption scandals that greatly weaken national governments.  High oil and food prices due to global as well as local situation and increased demand for biofuels increases pressure for private sector to acquire land – increasing pressure on population that is dependent on farming for their living.   Logging concessions to private industry lead to massive deforestation.  Environmental change creates incredible regional tensions. ASEAN closes borders and cooperation between countries is lost.  Food production is significantly decreased – migration and conflicts increase. 2050 sees a situation of unsustainable agricultural intensification. There is a big plantation sector, greater emphasis on processed foods, but only the rich people in the country can afford it.  There is huge environmental degradation. Social conflict is rampant.  Local governance and civil society at times make some progress in solving problems, but they cannot overcome the overall declining situation. 

The Doreki Dragon

In this scenario, the ASEAN-facilitated development of a regional market and the increasingly effective political focus on big business in all sectors, including agriculture, drives significant change. GMOs become the norm and are no longer exceptional – it’s all just “food”. Agricultural industrialisation develops to the degree that agriculture, while a massive source of growth, is almost no longer recognizable as such. Smallholder famers struggle more than ever, and very often fail, to maintain a livelihood – many become workers on highly industrial farms. Urbanisation is high. Environmental degradation and natural land conversion are extreme. Food security for the poor is very low, though food safety is stringent. The different societal classes are more divided than ever in terms of climate resilience with climate impacts being made significantly worse due to large-scale manipulation of the natural environment.

Tigers on a Train

This scenario sees Southeast Asia becoming increasingly collaborative regionally but also protectionist with regard to outside economic influences from China and other global actors. Riding on a time of high food prices in the first decades of the scenario, the region manages to use investments in agriculture that are not by themselves extremely high very effectively. The highly controlled region develops its focus from primary production more to agricultural processing, and eventually away from agriculture and toward industrialisation. Protectionist economic policies cause tensions with China and the need for continued negotiations. By 2050, some deep issues with the protectionist policies threaten to cripple the regional economy.  In terms of climate resilience, this increased economic fragility threatens food security for the poorest who have felt the consequences of the shift away from agricultural development in recent decades.


  1. What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Viet Nam in the next 30 years? (see the the list of drivers and obstacles in each country below)

  2. Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Viet Nam are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

  3. What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios? 

  4. What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved?

To read the complete scenarios for Viet Nam click here

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Dr. Santosh Kumar Mishra Population Education Resource Centre (PERC), Department of ...
Santosh Kumar

What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Viet Nam in the next 30 years?

  1. Drivers of development: All players and stakeholders should be given fair and ample opportunity to be part of the programme (particularly those with the least resources or the greatest economic disenfranchisement).
  2. Obstacles to development: Techniques for restoring degraded areas and sequestering soil carbon to enhance future productivity should increase or stabilize food production. Where the path to long-term sustainability means reducing productivity in the short term, economic incentives and transitional programmes will be required. Specific actions must be taken to assist those most vulnerable to long- and short-term increases in the price of food rather than relying on trickledown economic effects. Appropriate targeting of a portfolio of interventions at key points of vulnerability, such as meeting the food and nutritional needs of mothers and young children, will have disproportionately positive payoffs in future productivity and development.

Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Viet Nam are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

Viet Nam: The core issue of food security in Vietnam is the problem of poverty. Food supply is pretty full (rice and other food) but there are still large numbers of people who lack income to buy enough food. The rice farmers suffer a major cost in the food security policy of the Government. Growing rice is the most inefficient form of production for poor farmers if they want to increase their income. In some localities, income from rice is so low that farmers abandon fields if they are not allowed to convert land to other purposes. This makes negative impacts on the development of the country, land waste and does not help reduce poverty.

What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios? (all countries)

Feeding the world in an equitable and sustainable manner must involve food production and the food system assuming a much higher priority in political agendas across the world. Shaping the debate around issues like jobs, economic development and public health rather than about “joint sacrifice” would be most effective. Government departments around the world should consider moving responsibility for water, food and energy into one department to improve effectiveness.

What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved? (all countries)

There is a growing sense of urgency in establishing an effective and democratic agricultural system, which has in turn slowly given way to the emergence of various social movements and initiatives (such as the IPC) that highlight the importance of creating self-reliant local food systems. Food sovereignty is widely recognized as the right of all individuals to define their own agricultural policies, policies that are socially and economically appropriate in ensuring people’s physical and emotional well-being. This includes the right to food and the right to produce the food that’s necessary to sustain a society. For food security to be existent, it is paramount to ensure physical and economic access to a variety of food products that meet the dietary needs for a healthy living. There is need:

  1. to ensure adequate food supplies both at the national and local level,
  2. to create a reasonable degree of stability in the supply food network, and
  3. to ensure the ability of households to physically and economically access the food that is required.
Patrick Binns Westbrook Associates LLC, Estados Unidos de América
Patrick  Binns
Dear FAO Moderator,
The primary driver of sustainable development in Vietnam will be expanded higher education of young women and men focusing on the managerial and scientific skills needed to implement environmentally integrated private enterprise solutions to future challenges. It will be critically important to develop new generations of entreprenurial and technological leaders who will balance the pursuit of Return on Investment objectives with the imperative to restore and steward the nation's 'natural capital assets' of fertile agricultural land; fresh water resources; productive fisheries; and healthy ecosystem habitats that provide important environmental services to the common welfare.
With a particular focus on enabling long term food security under impending climate change stresses; Vietnam would greatly benefit from an increased priority to develop and use biofertilizers and biopesticides that are produced by domestic suppliers. These environmentally benign, yet highly productive agricultural input technologies would support increased crop yields while reducing the costs and pollution associated with intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. There is mounting field evidence of the positive impacts of biofertilizers on a wide variety of crops and produce; and their potential to help Vietnam reduce its costs of importing synthetic inputs from foreign sources. The development of indigenous beneficial soil biota with plant growth promotion properties is well established in Vietnam and elsewhere throughout the world. What is urgently needed now is progressive and innovative private and public capital support to energize wide spread commercialization.
There is also an urgent need to address the serious threats to fresh water fisheries in the Mekong River Basin. A significant portion of Vietnam's protein food sources are harvested from the Mekong River and downstream coastal areas. However, there are major hydroelectric dam projects now under construction in Laos and China and many more in the planning stages that could seriously impair the survival of hundreds of fish species that migrate and spawn along the length of the river and its tributaries. The technical capabilities to build fish ladders and other fish migration waterways that could support the wide variety of fish in the Mekong Basin are largely unknown at this time. There should be an international, multilateral agreement to avoid disrupting the ecological habitats and migration processes of the Mekong's rich fishery resources; and an immediate consideration of more appropriately scaled and sited hydropower dams that could operate in a more healthy co-existence and balance with fisheries and the livelihoods and food security they provide to Vietnam and the entire SE Asian region.
Leslie Lipper

General comments

Reading these inputs in addition to the outputs from the first scenario workshop is really quite illuminating and helpful in getting the big picture of the problems and challenges facing each of the three countries. 

One of our biggest concerns in the EPIC team is developing climate smart agricultural investment plans that can generate effective and needed change in each country.  To do that we are focussing on identifying key “delivery mechanisms” that need to be supported- and this dialogue is very relevant to identifying what those might look like. For example, I’ve been struck by comments for all three countries about the importance of educating and engaging young people as a key means of strengthening current and future capacity to effect change.  Likewise, the importance of addressing and reversing natural resource degradation and depletion has come up in the dialogue for all three countries – although here it is less clear what actions are likely to be feasible and effective.  We also see that in all three countries there is considerable concern about increasing the effectiveness of institutions to support change – but there are considerable differences in what might be the best solution here.

Comments on Viet Nam

In Vietnam, the dominant theme is the importance of market linkages – both within and external to the country and the critical role of the private sector vis a vis the public sector role.   The nature of international and regional agricultural trade agreements is clearly an important driver here, as is the development of public/private partnerships (PPPS) and the way that privatization of state assets is carried out.  Ensuring good governance of market development – both internally and externally – and guiding the private sector to provide effect support are thus two key elements that I think need to be considered and to the extent possible, integrated into the work of building the CSA investment proposals.

A final issue arising from the responses to the dialogue for building the country CSA investment proposals is the importance of considering that there can be alternative futures in each country and that will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the CSA work. The question is then to structure the CSA investments so it can be effective under very different futures in the country – but that of course is very tricky!  One thing I think likely to be effective under any plausible future is strong emphasis on youth education and training and so this should be given some emphasis in the proposals. Improving market governance and positive participation of the private sector seems a key issue in all countries as well, but of course this is more difficult to address through the channel of a CSA investment proposal.  Specific action areas to support good market governance and private sector participation in the context of Vietnam are still important to identify.

While I think we have to be realistic about the role the CSA work and investment proposals can actually play in having a positive impact on larger issues of national development, we do need to think very carefully about the leverage the project and investments could have in promoting desirable future scenarios and be creative in building implementation structures that actually contribute to larger public goods such as effective market governance and more specific feedback on this would be very helpful as we move ahead.

Kien Nguyen Van Plant Resources Center (PRC), Viet Nam

Dear all,

1. I think that the main drivers of development for Vietnam in the next 30 years is models of public and private partners (PPP) in agriculture and rural sector while the PPP should be considered as service providers for the agriculture and rural sector from policy, legal, capital, technology and science, planning, forecast, processing, value chains, correct information and needs. The most important things are Vietnamese trademarks development, land accumulation, educated/trained labors with cheap cost. And main obstacles to this sector is poor/low facilitation with lack of information, planning.

2. For this, I think that all scenarios can happen but they can appear, change each to others belong to economics, social situations. Because historically events proofed that there is no  a perfect scenario.

3. For solutions, of course government should mobilize and develop the private source in the sector as well as building institution and legal frame for the cooperation. A worst scenario can occur that has  severe impacts of climate change/environment and backward policies in the sector, and competitiveness  to Vietnamese agricultural products. This small scale production models should be maintained and developed to protect the dynamic and flexibility of the sectors.

4.  For key first step, Vietnamese government should invite the regional/international consultants/organizations and development institutions such as ADB, Worldbank, EU, US, Japan,  China, India, FAO, WIPO, ect to consult for developing strategy/planning in the future and propose the commitments of partners in technical, capital, market issues and risks far away.

Best regards,


Plant Genebank Management Division
Plant Resources Center (PRC)
Hanoi, Vietnam

Mr. Nghia Le FAO Vietnam, Viet Nam

1. What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Vietnam in the next 30 years?

a. Main drivers for the development of Vietnam in 30 years

- macro-environmental drivers that create the broad context for the development of  Vietnam: (1) Industrialization and modernization policies will promote (2) advanced technology application (including information technologies, material technology and energy technology), (3) establishment of multi-lateral trade treaties (at regional and global levels) and thus leading to (4) an integratedly sustainable economy. The (5) stable political condition will ensure the national security for sustainable and stable development of Vietnam

- Micro-environmental drivers that will affect particular elements of the development of Vietnam: (1) young and well trained population will play an important role in promoting economic development. (2) Proper policies relative to climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable agriculture, and environmental sustainability will drive development of Vietnam positively.  (3) Policies to develop and exploit new energy sources, such as solar energy and bio-energy, will ensure energy security for development.

b. Obstacles for the development of Vietnam in 30 years

- Depletion of natural resources (land, water, air, forest etc.)

- Pressure from population increase

- Increasing extreme weather events (droughts, floods, temperature rise, sea level rise, etc.)  with more severe damages

- Impacts from other strong economies (competition between domestic products and imported products)

- unpredictable inflation, economic crises

- Inequality in human and natural resource distribution, in development between regions, sectors.

2. Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Vietnam are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

To me, the Doreki dragon is the most plausible scenario. Since Vietnam is planning to promote GM food production we are looking forward to have a more effective and more profitable agriculture sector that aims at ensuring our future food security and contribution to GDP from Agriculture production.

In addition, Vietnam is already a member of regional and international trade collaborations that all most all products from governmental and private companies are able to reach outside markets contributing considerably into the National GDP. Farmer households have to join bigger cooperatives that their production is secured and ensured the output markets.

However, since then, the urbanization, industrialization and modernization will be likely to cause the depletion of environment, natural resources leading to wide gaps between socio-levels, urban and rural, city and remote, famers and officials, et. Similarly, with increasing changes in climate more farmers are vulnerable to severe impacts of climate shocks and therefore those farmers find it difficult to deal with/adapt to climate change in the scenario.


The scenario therefore would be more plausible if we advocate Vietnam to have more policies to support poor and the vulnerable farmers, especially woman and children, to adapt to climate change and economic changes. These supports should come from government, civil society organizations, private sector, Non-Governmental Organizations etc.


3. What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios?

In order to support the drivers to overcome the obstacles in the Doreki dragon scenario, we can propose following solutions.

- Having comprehensive and complete policies on climate change adaptation and mitigation that can help to avoid risks, shocks and damages from unpredictable changes in climate.  

- Having good policies in environmental and natural resource protection to manage exploitation environmental goods, and avoid depletion of natural resources.

- Having good economic policies that support poor and vulnerable people to adapt to economic crisis, to climate change and natural hazard.

- improving awareness and knowledge of population on climate change and its impacts of economic development and production, especially agriculture production. Introduce new and better livelihood activities that poor people can apply to improve their income and living condition.


4. What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved?

Need assessment for Vietnam at all levels that can work out the urgent issues need to be dealt with. Base on findings from need assessment we can propose appropriate initiatives, suitable policy reform and better administration works for development of Vietnam and these should be the first key steps.


Vietman will require to understand the growing resource and economic realities of the SEA region and in Asia as well. Water and land are already becoming elements of dispute in South Asia and China. More strategic land and water resources admisintration policies is certain a vital necessity. Strenthening regional cooperation  and maintaining good neighbourly attitude contributes greatly to economic development. Food security and healthcare related issues remain top priority in the overall development agenda.

As an agribased economy and major producer and exporter of rice, Vietnam also faces the imperatives to develop more sustainable agribusiness models to better cooperate with international business partners.  

Since a large number of population is living below poverty line, both government and private sector need to work together to mainstream them more effectively into the national economy. Community-based capacity building programs can have promising outcomes in this respect. 


Dr. Ho Son Thai Nguyen University, Viet Nam

Main drivers of development for Vietnam in the next 30 years could be privatization of state owned enterprises, opportunities from TPP and other trade agreements, and reform initiatives taken by governments.

Main obstacles could be the slowness of privatization/reform process as mentioned above, risks from not able to take opportunities provided by trade agreement (TPP and others), risks from mismanagement of environment (water pollution, over-exploitation of natural resources), and risks from climate change associated impacts.

Scenario 1 is the most plausible for Vietnam although I do not agree with all of it.


Ms. PHAM THI SEN NOMAFSI (Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Institute, ...

1. Question 1:

Main drivers:

- Globalization and increased threats of being "vanished" if not developed,  increased markets for agricultural products, increased opportunities for development, acquirement and application of technologies.

- Demographic development with increased skillful and educated manpower.

Main obstacles:

- Moral recession: declined moral standards, reduced sense of responsibility for the community development.

- Others obstacles, as other people already mentioned.

2. Question 2:

- All of the scenarios seem to be plausible in certain way, and the first one "Land of the Golden Mekong" is the most likely for me. However, how to make the markets commonly regulated and the regional collaboration strengthened is still not clear; need more inputs from the scenarios "builders".

3. Question 3:


- To increase the sense of community responsibility together with increase the production; both "sense" and "matter" at the same time.

4. Question 4:

First step:

- To get the policy makers and the decision makers involved in the scenarios building and aware of the obstacles and drivers to the country's development.

Dr. Vervoort Joost University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Thank you all for your comments so far - it is very interesting, though not unexpected , to see that different individuals have different ideas of what the scenario is that they see as most likely to develop. This is one of the reasons it is useful to work with multiple scenarios and focus on whether they are telling plausible stories and posing useful challenges to decision-making. The comments on drivers and change processes are very useful. Many thanks! Joost 

Prof. Trinh Mai Van Institute for Agricultural Environment, Viet Nam

1.What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Viet Nam in the next 30 years? (see the the list of drivers and obstacles in each country below)

The main drivers:

- Influences of the world, regional and neighbor countries (e.g. China) economic

Industry and real estate are also the strong drivers in the next decades

Exporting agricultural products

Increasing population associated with high food consumption

The obstacles

- Resources exhausting

Land reduced due to climate change (sea level rise, drought…

Agricultural production reaching ceiling level

Degradation of land and water