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Livelihoods Assessment Undertaken in Mekong Delta Commune Reflects Adaptation Needs
26 September 2014
Author: Asian Management and Development Institute (AMDI)

Following to the community vulnerability assessment to support community climate change resilience strengthening, the livelihood assessment was recently undertook in "Thuan Hoa commune", An Minh district, Kien Giang province, Vietnam at the end of June 2014 by USAID Mekong ARCC team, including livelihoods experts of the Asian Management and Development Institute (AMDI) and Vietnam Red Cross. The assessment aims to evaluate the livelihoods of people in Thuan Hoa commune and determine how they are impacted by climate change. This allows us to identify opportunities to improve local incomes, and gauge local capacity to implement climate resilient livelihood strategies at household, community, and local government levels.  

The livelihood assessment built upon community adaptation initiatives conducted by AMDI in Thuan Hoa commune through USAID Mekong ARCC Project, including a climate change Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA), community climate change awareness surveys, and a profile of community assets and current capacity to address climate change impacts. Staff from the Vietnam Red Cross (VNRC) and USAID Mekong ARCC assisted AMDI in carrying out the field survey.

Key Findings

Key target groups identified in the analysis included aquaculture farmers, shrimp-rice farmers, landless, land-poor and women. Participatory research methods of focus group discussions and key informant interviews were conducted to ensure the community’s views were heard and recorded. Discussions were held with local authorities, Women’s Union, Youth Union, vulnerable groups and representatives from Agricultural Extension Centers. We found that many of their existing livelihood options will not be climate resilient in the long term without changes to practices. All the existing natural resource-based livelihood sectors are vulnerable to climate change, with agriculture, animal husbandry and aquaculture sectors already experiencing negative effects.

The shrimp-rice area occupies the largest farmed area of the commune, and is the main source of income for the population. Before 2003, farmers planted two rice crops in this area. Over the past 10 years though, farmers have seen higher profits from cultivating a shrimp-rice system. The shrimp-rice system pumps saline water from canals into the field after the harvest of the rainy season rice in order to raise shrimp. Because the income potential from shrimp is much higher than rice, farmers tend to extend the shrimp crop by continuing stocking shrimp seed late into the period of rice crop.  This practice results in salinization of the land such that the subsequent rice crop cannot be established. Predicted sea level rise of 30 cm by 2050 will increase the severity of saline water intrusion to shrimp-rice fields. The assessment revealed that farmers are already experiencing certain climate change impacts of extended periods of higher temperatures and unseasonal rainfall, which has reduced shrimp yields.

Researchers witnessed significant coastal erosion. As seen in the photograph, the erosion is affecting people that live close to the water.

“200 m of land over the mudflats has been eroded in the past four months… I think the land where my house is now will be gone in 2 months time, so we are moving inland.”- a Local Farmer

The wave action had already broken through the levee bank of an aquaculture pond next to the sea, making it useless for production. While the next pond inland had not been breached by the sea, its close proximity meant the pond’s water was too saline for aquaculture, and this pond had also been abandoned. This example of coastal erosion and saline water intrusion was a powerful case-study for the assessment team.

Despite having a population of about 19,000 people, the commune’s lack of a household waste disposal and collection system is a public health concern. Many toilets are located over the canals or ponds in and around the community. Natural disasters such as typhoons or strong storms with high winds could force people to use the canal water for cooking or drinking, increasing the risk of disease. Plastic bags floating in the canals frequently wrap around the propellers and shafts of the boats, requiring them to stop and be cleared before proceeding. People commented that the water quality in canals had declined, especially in the past 2-3 years.

As the widely-used shrimp-rice model is inexpensive and not labor intensive, there is a need to find ways to absorb the excess labor in the commune. There are a significant number of households, particularly the poor households, which have members involved in either seasonal or permanent migration to seek employment in the industrial sector in urban cities. This pattern is exacerbated by increasing population pressure on family land plots. In Thuan Hoa, parents divide their land and allocate it to their children. This results in small land plots which are less viable economically, and more susceptible to intense, unsustainable land use practices. During discussions with farmers, the majority said they would like to remain in their villages if sustainable and profitable livelihood options existed.

Proposed Activities

Our project proposes livelihood options focused on increasing the resilience of aquacultural and agricultural systems. These options are more resilient to both current and projected future environmental and climate challenges, and will therefore benefit the community. The proposed options also allocate higher importance on short term effects and vulnerable target groups. These options were ranked against a set of suitability criteria in an exercise attended by community leaders.

Options included:

  • Shrimp /Crab production in combination with sedge grass (Scirpus littoralis) planting
  • Planting of suitable trees on shrimp pond banks
  • Technical training on aquaculture
  • Demonstration models of shrimp, crab, cockle culture
  • Pig Raising on bio-mattress (especially popular with poor female farmers)
  • Building of barriers, planting mangroves to reduce erosion


By taking a participatory research approach, the research team encouraged discussion on climate change related issues among community members and groups, which is an important part of the adaptation and learning process within the USAID Mekong ARCC Project. This will also be an important part of the long-term sustainability of the community. As part of these ongoing project activities, the results of this assessment will be presented and discussed at a validation workshop in Thuan Hoa commune in October 2014. Due to the critical importance of shrimp as an income source, AMDI will conduct a detailed GAP analysis of the shrimp-rice system, which will give stakeholders a deeper understanding of appropriate adaptation options.

Click below to view the Livelihoods Assessment Report.