Examples of GIZ’s work: Effective climate change adaptation in Viet Nam

05.06.2015 – The Mekong Delta in Viet Nam feeds approximately 145 million people in Asia, but the region is increasingly threatened by climate change. GIZ is therefore supporting local authorities to adapt the coastal region to the changing conditions.

The Mekong Delta in Viet Nam is home to 17 million people, and more than half of the country’s entire rice harvest is grown here. But the coastal region is facing major challenges, because Viet Nam is one of the countries most strongly affected by climate change in world. The frequency and intensity of storms and flooding have increased in recent years. This has resulted in the destruction of large sections of protective mangrove forests in many coastal areas. In addition, sea levels are rising due to the warming climate, which is leading to increasing salinisation of soils. As a result, yields are falling and in the worst-case scenario, the land will be rendered infertile.

According to Christian Henckes, ‘the Mekong Delta is showing how climate change is threatening livelihoods – and what can be done to create better prospects for people and the environment.’ He is leading the coastal management programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH commissioned by the Australian Government and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme is supporting the coastal region to better prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The activities are focused on natural coastal protection: mangrove forests should once again protect the country from flooding. In some areas, simple bamboo fences and innovative forestry technique have been able to reclaim up to 180 metres of land from the sea, and now mangroves are growing here.

In order to improve conditions for local farmers, GIZ is teaching them about alternative cultivation methods and introducing new tree species. The farmers are learning how to react to climate change, make more targeted use of water and fertilisers, and protect the environment. It’s all been worth it: farmers who use the techniques are generating up to 40 per cent more income.

The biggest challenge, however, is of a political and organisational nature. Multiple institutions spanning different levels and multiple provinces are responsible for adaptation to a warming climate in the Mekong Delta. Their strategies and investments are often insufficiently harmonised. GIZ is therefore supporting the government to introduce new cooperation mechanisms at regional level – something new to Viet Nam. ‘If we succeed in improving regional coordination in the Mekong Delta, that would be a big step forwards,’ according to Henckes.

GIZ is also supporting agriculture in other countries. Since 2010 around one million farmers have increased their incomes.