Tran Van Van, his wife Nguyen Thi Hong, and their two children live in Kim Trung Commune, Ninh Binh Province where they farm white leg shrimp in 3.5 hectares of pond. Two years ago, after frequent disease outbreaks, they defaulted on a 16 million dong (US$750) loan from the Women's Union. Van went to China to work on a sugar cane plantation but couldn't make enough money to support his family and had to go home. He returned with no clear idea of how to make a living for his family.
With the support of an MFF small grant, Van and 28 other families joined a shrimp farming improvement program that uses the Vietnam Good Agricultural Practices or VietGAP standard. The project provided training and technical assistance in post larvae selection, pond preparation and maintenance, disease management, and other aspects of sustainable shrimp production. The investment has paid off: Van's last two crops have yielded a total profit of 37 million dong (US$1,730). He has repaid the loan and, Van adds cheerfully: “We've just bought two buffalo calves with the money from our shrimp and crab harvest”.
A crucial VietGAP improvement is cooperative water management. Before the project, families discharged dirty pond water directly into communal canals, which spread disease. Now, all 29 families coordinate their water inflows and outflows and before discharging pond water after the shrimp harvest they let the sediment settle on the bottom for 15 days. The sediment is then dredged on to the dike around the pond.
Asked if he would continue using the VietGAP method after the project ends, Van said confidently: “I have grasped VietGAP aquaculture techniques, with help from the project, hence will manage on my own. But I still need further guidance on how to diagnose and handle shrimp diseases. Also, to sustainably develop shrimp and crab farming, all households must stay committed to managing the communal water supply and to not discharging wastewater into the environment”.