Benefits of the 3R approach for agricultural waste management (AWM) in Vietnam: Under the framework of joint project on Asia Resource Circulation Research

Discussion Paper
Benefits of the 3R approach for agricultural waste management (AWM) in Vietnam: Under the framework of joint project on Asia Resource Circulation Research

The need for Preface on agricultural waste management

In recent years, Vietnam's agricultural sectors have developed rapidly. The country has become the world's second-largest rice exporter and also a key partner of many developed countries such as the USA, Japan, and countries in the EU in terms of the export of other agricultural products. According to statistical data, the output of cereals reached 43.3 million tons in 2009, including rice output of 38.9 million tons, an increase of 116,000 tons over 2008 figures. Exported rice reached a record level at 5.95 million tons. However, accompanying this development has been wastes from the irrational application of intensive farming methods and the abuse of chemicals used in cultivation, remarkably affecting rural environments in particular and the global environmental in general.

Wastes generated from agricultural sectors such as plant residues after harvesting and cattle manure include hydrocarbons, proteins, lipids, and some other organic compounds. Recently, agricultural waste management (AWM) for ecological agriculture and sustainable development has become an issue of concern for the government. For example, almost all of these agricultural "wastes" can be easily digested. The products of the decomposition process not only provide essential nutrients for plants but also make the soil porous and improve the characteristics of the soil, especially its ability to retain water, thus contributing to clean, safe, and sustainable agriculture.

Literature review for the 3R approach in AWM in Vietnam

The 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) were introduced to the Vietnamese people about 10 years ago. But even before that, some initial activities of the 3Rs were already being carried out because Vietnamese farmers are typically industrious, hard-working, and thrifty.

The project entitled "Study in using agricultural residues to produce enzymes that can be used for animals and poultry in Vietnam (VS/BT/95)," funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), was carried out between 2004 and 2007 and directed attention to the large amount of cultivation waste generated annually. This project was carried out with the aim of building capacity for national researchers and scientists regarding knowledge of enzymes and enzyme-proboscis production. Another successful study carried out by Nguyen Duy Hang focused on reusing agriculture wastes as nutrient mixtures for orchids and other ornamental plants in the southern province of Lam Dong. This study was recognized as meaningful because of the benefits it brought to the Vietnamese farmers and its contribution to environmental protection. Cultivation residues can be not only reused for agricultural purposes but also recycled as an energy source in industrial sectors. The project entitled "Sustainable Integration of Local Agriculture and Biomass Industries," funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), addresses agricultural wastes and sustains local agriculture in conjunction with biomass industries in the Mekong Delta.

Another purpose of the project is researching and developing technologies to contribute to climate change mitigation such as by switching away from biomass to clean fuels, such as biogas and bioethanol (to use as fuels for industry and for running motors). The project has been planned for implementation over five years (2009 to 2014). Focusing on recycling these waste sources, Prof. Tran Binh (since 2009) has been successful in his work to create a gas cooker which produces gas from biomass. The body design of this special cooker does not permit the discharge of smoke outside the cooker itself and makes the heat and smoke return to enhance burning. In addition, a pilot-scale study by Prof. Hoang Dung was carried out to convert agricultural wastes to molasses, which is then transformed into ethanol.

In terms of livestock waste, through the use of computer programming Dr. Nguyen Quang Khai has achieved great success in manufacturing biogas facilities that are designed to ensure optimum size, structural strength, and safety while saving material. Two of his biogas facilities, called KT1 and KT2, won Vietnam's tenth national technical innovation contest. The facilities are becoming popular and are being utilized in over 80,000 projects nationwide. At the end of June 2009, Dr. Khai and his colleagues designed and built an anaerobic lake covering 7000 m3 of a Trai Lam farm. After decomposition, the resulting biogas can be used to run electric generators and the wastes can be recycled as food for fish.

Recently, a five-year project entitled "Livestock Waste Management in East Asia" underway since 2006 set a target of reducing the major negative environmental and health impacts of rapidly increasing and concentrated livestock production on water bodies and thus on the people of East Asia. Its global environmental objective is to reduce livestock-induced, land-based pollution and environmental degradation of the South China Sea, including where it impacts Thailand, China, and Vietnam.

Objectives and the scope of this study

Although in Vietnam there exists a certain amount of research related to 3R approaches in agricultural sectors as mentioned here, the concept of the 3Rs is not yet a familiar one for rural residents. The government and other functional organizations are paying greater attention to means of improving 3R activities. This study addresses environmental issues related to waste generation from cultivation, livestock, and agricultural service activities and evaluates potential benefits of the 3R approach in AWM in Vietnam. In addition, it also identifies the challenges and opportunities in promoting this international 3R mission while also suggesting some options for promoting effective 3R activities.

Huynh Trung Hai
Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet