ASEAN-CGIAR workshop reviews use of Vietnam's biodiversity to promote resilience

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A workshop to promote the use of agrobiodiversity in transforming Vietnam’s food systems towards more nutritious and healthy diets while reducing the environmental footprint was held in Hanoi on 17 November. Organized under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and CGIAR Innovate for Food and Nutrition Security Regional Program, in partnership with the CGIAR Initiative on Nature-Positive Solutions, the event brought together around 30 experts from the government, academia and research institutions.

The primary goal was to convene leaders, experts, and practitioners to engage in discussions on key actors, current initiatives, opportunities, and challenges in enhancing the conservation of agrobiodiversity in Vietnam. On the agenda was a diverse range of topics, including presentations on the current state of biodiversity management, barriers to effective conservation, innovative approaches, and potential partnerships for promoting resilience and nutrition.

Ta Thi Kieu Anh from the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency provided an in-depth overview of Vietnam’s ‘National Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, Vision to 2030’. In expressing the government’s commitment, Kieu Anh affirmed, ‘The National Biodiversity Strategy sets clear targets for conservation, reflecting our dedication to preserving the rich biodiversity of our nation.’ Vu Dang Toan from the Plant Resources Center shared on the crucial role of conserving plant genetic resources for sustainable agriculture and food security in Vietnam. Stef de Haan and Diego Naziri from the International Potato Center (CIP) stressed the importance of monitoring the temporal and spatial variation of agrobiodiversity to address the challenges faced in crop-level conservation. Karen Marshall from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) provided insights into livestock genetic diversity in Vietnam, emphasizing the need for continued investment in conservation efforts. Queenie Rizaldo from WorldFish discussed the role of aquatic foods diversity in improving nutrition, while Vu Van Thuy from WWF Vietnam shared the organization’s experiences in agrobiodiversity conservation.

The project team engaged with key stakeholders during breakout group discussions, which covered a range of topics, including stakeholders, interventions, projects and programs that support agrobiodiversity in Vietnam.

Common challenges, including limited awareness among policymakers and the need for better communication and capacity building, emerged as key themes. The participants emphasized the importance of market connections, digital platforms and community involvement in promoting agrobiodiversity.

Stakeholders advocated for a transition from research to action. They also highlighted the importance of linking native species and landraces to nutrition interventions and markets through community-led initiatives, value chain development and public procurement. Participants agreed that support from local leaders is crucial in guiding Vietnam’s farming towards being more sustainable and resilient through conservation and use of local agro-biodiversity. They underscored the role of local authorities in promoting indigenous products and advocated for increased government commitment and advocacy campaigns.

Dao The Anh

In the closing remarks, Dao The Anh, vice president of the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) emphasized that the future of farming depends on how well people work with nature: ‘There is a need for information to facilitate education, digital connectivity between farmers and markets, and acknowledgment of communities’ critical role in preserving and utilizing local varieties. Sharing of knowledge is necessary for this transformative journey.’

The workshop was organized by CIP in collaboration with VAAS and ILRI, with the support of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Participants were drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), research institutions, academia, non-governmental organizations, and various CGIAR centres.

As part of the Intervention Package 3 of the ASEAN-CGIAR program, led by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, similar consultation workshops are being conducted in Laos, Thailand and the Philippines. These will be followed by a regional consultation in early 2024 to review and consolidate the opportunities, challenges and lessons learned from the country-level workshops.

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