Mangrove forest and sea Mangrove forest and sea

Environment and climate change

Mangroves for coastal protection

Mangrove forests protect the coastal areas and rice fields of the Mekong Delta from storms and flooding.

Extreme weather, storms and rising sea levels – climate change is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. In Viet Nam, people living in the Mekong Delta are using mangrove trees to protect their land from rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Viet Nam is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. Coastal regions are particularly at risk on account of constantly rising sea levels. The Mekong Delta on the southwest coast is the country’s third largest industrial region and the largest area for rice production. But once fields become inundated with seawater as a result of floods or storms, they cannot be used for years. The resulting harvest losses pose a threat to the livelihoods of the 17 million people living in the Mekong region.

The mangrove forests are being restored in order to keep the sea at bay and protect both coastline and fields. Mangrove roots descend deep into the mud, binding together the soil and earth. In Viet Nam, where the trees were used for firewood or sold, this natural form of coastal protection had virtually disappeared. Then in the 1990s the Vietnamese authorities began restoring the protective forests.

Fisherman on his boat with net, Mangroves in background

Cooperation in action

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has been helping the Mekong region adapt to climate change: since 2011 it has collaborated with the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) on taking a different approach.

In the coastal provinces of Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta local people are directly involved in replanting and managing the mangrove forests.

Only those involved in this restoration work are permitted to enter the forests for the purposes of fishing or collecting dead wood. Not only does this approach make local communities more proactive, it has also served to boost biodiversity in the mangrove forests by almost three quarters in just four years. This in turn has increased the income of forest managers, since larger populations of fish, crabs and birds means more animals to be caught and sold.

Asian man, hands in mangrove mud

More than anything, however, the approach has been successful in protecting the land again from rising waters. The coastline now extends a further 180 metres into the sea, and more than 600 hectares of mangrove forest have been restored in total – an area equivalent to 840 football pitches. But since climate change does not stop at borders, resource conservation also involves the relevant authorities at national and provincial level. Policy guidelines on forest and irrigation management have been developed, which in the long term will benefit over eight million people in the region.

New varieties and sustainable rice cultivation

Climate change is also threatening the delta’s agricultural production. Floods, changes in precipitation patterns and droughts are making the soil increasingly salty. Rice farmers therefore require rice varieties that are more tolerant to salt and floods while growing quickly to reduce the risk of crop failures. GIZ advises the farmers on introducing new and long-forgotten varieties – and has already trained 3,000 farmers in sustainable cultivation techniques. Thanks to this support, the rice farmers have been able to increase their income by an average of 40 per cent.

Last update: November 2018