Viet Nam's Steps Toward Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at COP28

December 6, 2023

Dubai, 5 December 2023 - The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-hosted the "Sustainable Transformation of Agriculture and Food System" event at the COP28, showcasing a significant step in Viet Nam’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and food systems. The side event highlighted ongoing efforts towards greater sustainability, low-carbon development, and climate-resilience within its agricultural and food systems.

Viet Nam's agricultural sector, a major player in the global market for rice, coffee, and pepper, achieved an impressive export turnover of $53.22 billion in 2022, demonstrating its continued growth and contribution to the economy. However, the sector faces challenges from climate change impacts and market fluctuations. Further, it accounts for approximately 13,9% of the national net GHG emissions, as highlighted in Viet Nam’s BUR3. In response, MARD formulated comprehensive plans to reduce GHG emissions, aiming to cut total emissions to 53.57 MtCO2eq by 2025 and further a further reduction of 121.9 Mt CO2eq by 2030.

To address these challenges, Viet Nam is actively integrating eco-friendly and low-carbon practices in its agricultural practices. Central to this strategy are the integration of nature-based adaptation and eco-friendly practices and the enhancement of low-carbon measures throughout the production, processing, and trade process for key agriculture supply chains. For example, to spearhead with green growth and enhance climate resilience among smallholder farms in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam has approved the Proposal on "Sustainable development of One million ha rice with high-quality and low emission associated with green growth in the Mekong Delta until 2030." These efforts are bolstered by collaborations with international organizations such as UNDP, FAO, the World Bank, CGIAR members, and various NGOs and international research institutions.

At the side event, Mr. Pham Ngoc Mau, Deputy Director General of International Cooperation Department of MARD, emphasized the importance of agriculture in Viet Nam, contributing 12% to the GDP and supporting over 62% of the rural population. He stated, “To accelerate the transition to highly efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agriculture and food systems is vital to bringing about a healthier, equitable future, and achieving a safe and healthy diet for all, reversing ecosystem degradation, and adapting to and mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis.  This transition requires a holistic, multi-sector and multi-level approach of food systems to bring all actors in food systems together to act together.”

UNDP's Head of Climate Change, Environment and Energy Unit in Viet Nam, Mr. Dao Xuan Lai praised recent developments in new technologies and green farming practices, particularly in promoting low-carbon dragon fruit and shrimp supply chains, including a transparent traceability system to track the lifecycle emissions of the products from farm to table. Mr. Lai stressed the need to decouple deforestation from agricultural commodity value chains, starting with piloting deforestation-free practices, fostering public-private partnerships, and supporting smallholder farmers and marginalized groups to minimize the impacts of new regulations like the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR).

Emphasizing the need for international collaboration to combat these issues, Mr. Lai stated “it requires a collaborative effort between governments and other actors – buyers, industry players, multilateral partnerships, civil society organizations, and local communities. It also requires the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as small-scale farmers, so no one is left behind.”

Various presentations at the event showcased innovative solutions and strategies for climate smart, sustainable, and deforestation-free agriculture. Key topics included the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture's inclusive approach, Viet Nam's food supply snapshot and introduction of the National Action on Food systems transformation by 2030, Grow Asia’s efforts to build public-private partnerships. Notably, special attention was given to transitioning to low-emission rice production and enhancing women's roles in the rice value chain, underscoring the multifaceted approach needed for sustainable transformation.

Another highlight of the event was Viet Nam's commitment to new and emerging international regulations, such as compliance with the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). The country is actively designing solutions to meet EUDR requirements with strong collaboration between MARD, NGOs, and the private sector. IDH shared technical proposals for EUDR compliance in Viet Nam, while UNDP presented their approach to address deforestation-free regulation with strong links to current international frameworks such as REDD+, drawing upon successful applications in Ecuador which could offer valuable insights for Viet Nam.