“Monkey Cheeks” project

Project title: Piloting Flood-Based Livelihoods in support of a water retention strategy in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam
A practical demonstration of floating gardens in Tri Ton District, An Giang Province


Dong Thap, Long An, and An Giang Provinces


September 2017 - August 2020

Project background:

The idea of “Monkey Cheeks” is a metaphor adopted in Thailand to visualize wetlands as a temporary flood storage area. This concept of flood storage or water retention is attracting growing interest at high levels in Vietnam as a way to mitigate extreme floods and droughts.

In the upper Mekong Delta, the monkey’s cheeks are represented by two natural flood plains: (1) the Plain of Reeds (POR) to the east and (2) the Long Xuyen Quadrangle (LXQ) to the west. Together, this area measures approximately 1.3 million hectares. Since reunification in 1975 and particularly over the last 15 years, these flood plains have undergone considerable human modification. In response to national food shortages and in order to grow first two and then three crops of rice a year, high dikes were built to displace floodwaters. However, this strategy has not been without dramatic consequences: increased downstream flooding, sediment loss and declining soil fertility, reduced shallow aquifer recharge, accumulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants, and a large decline in capture fisheries.

The effects of climate change have seriously impacted the Mekong Delta and will continue to do so as projections indicate an increase in extreme flood and drought events and sea level rise. The Monkey Cheeks strategy aims adapt to these changes by restoring the flood retention function of the delta through new approaches to land and water management made possible by the completion of the Mekong Delta Plan (MDP) in 2013. To accomplish this, the program will invest in profitable but low risk flood-based farming systems that will conserve or restore flood retention capacity.

Objective of the project:

  • Implement farmer demonstrations of financially attractive, low risk, flood-based livelihoods across approximately 450 hectares of rice growing land which will retain approximately 6.7 million m3 of flood water and which can be up-scaled in other rice production areas in order to increase flood retention areas in the POR/LXQ.

Expected Outputs:

  • Farmer supported livelihood designs and implementation plans
  • Updated district land use plans which include input from the local community
  • Strengthened community drought and flood early-warning systems
  • Increased community and government understanding of markets and market demand for flood-based agricultural products
  • 450 hectares of flood retention area that provides increased farmer income
  • Knowledge of flood-based livelihood upscaling potential and its contribution to social and ecosystem resilience
  • Other initiatives that upscale the water retention strategy demonstration model.

Expected outcomes:

The project will invest in approximately 450 hectares of flood-based livelihoods, thereby conserving or restoring approximately 6.7 million m3/year of flood retention capacity. The expected annual implementation outcomes over 3 years are expected to be:

  • Year 1: 100 hectares = 1.5 million m3
  • Year 2: 150 hectares = 2.3 million m3
  • Year 3: 200 hectares = 2.9 million m3

Scaling up the demonstrations will help restore some of the 4 billion m3 of water retention that was lost in the decade between 2000 and 2011.

Donor: Coca Cola Foundation


A three way cooperation agreement with each of the three Provincial People’s Committees (Dong Thap, Long An, and An Giang), IUCN, and Coca Cola.

In Dong Thap, the project will cooperate with the Dong Thap DARD, Thap Muoi District People’s Committee, and Can Tho University; in Long An, the project will cooperate with Long An DARD, Tan Hung District Peoples Committee, and Can Tho University; and in An Giang, the project will cooperate with An Giang DARD, Tri Ton District People’s Committee, and An Giang University.


Dr. Andrew Wyatt – Deputy Head, IUCN Indo-Burma Region at

Mr. Tang Phuong Gian – Mekong Delta Field Programme Officer at


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