New One CGIAR initiative to transform livestock productivity, nutrition and gender inclusion in northwest Vietnam

A two-day workshop, 20-21 April 2022, kicked off the One CGIAR initiative on Sustainable Animal Productivity for Livelihoods, Nutrition and Gender Inclusion (SAPLING) in Son La Province, Northwest Vietnam. The workshop brought together 80 key stakeholders from the province including local authorities, farmers, researchers, private sector actors and the SAPLING team to discuss ways to make the livestock sector in Northwest Vietnam more productive, resilient, equitable and sustainable.

A child herding and caring for cattle in Son La Province, Northwest Vietnam (photo credit: Luong Van Dung).

In Son La Province, ethnic minority people, who account for 83% of the population, experience the highest levels of poverty, malnutrition and gender inequality. Their livelihoods are critically dependent on agriculture, especially the livestock sector which is dominated by small-scale production. As of 2021, out of the total livestock population in Son La, cattle, pigs and poultry account for 350,000, 700,000 and seven million, respectively. But this sector faces several key challenges including low productivity and efficiency; poor animal husbandry; inefficient food safety management; nutrition insecurity; low decision-making power for ethnic minorities, women and youth; limited market access and low market competitiveness. SAPLING offers several solutions to address these challenges and will contribute to the recently approved national livestock strategy for 2021–2030 that emphasizes sustainable development, competitiveness enhancement, diseases and environment protection, and food safety and quality improvement. The SAPLING initiative aims to enable farmers of pigs, beef cattle and chickens to participate in inclusive value chains to achieve sustainable productivity gains and by these contributing to better livelihoods.

While opening the workshop, Cam Thi Phong, deputy director, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Son La Province said the government is ‘committed to continue supporting the project design and co-implementation while considering the local context, ethnic minorities and livestock production characteristics in order to achieve the objectives of the initiative.’

SAPLING emphasizes a co-design approach and seeks to engage with both public and private sector partners, throughout the initiative cycle, to co-create and co-deliver demand-driven innovation packages for inclusive and sustainable livestock value chains in the Northwest Highlands of Vietnam, according to Mary Otieno, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (ABC) scientist and SAPLING Vietnam country lead. As such, this meeting was convened to enhance implementation of the SAPLING initiative.

On the first day of the workshop, the SAPLING research team introduced the initiative and its targeted value chains of pigs, beef cattle and chickens. The country team then worked with partners in three groups, one for each target value chain, to co-develop the Theory of Change (TOC) (aims, outcomes and priority innovation packages) for the coming three years.

Farmers in the cattle value chain group discuss the Theory of Change of SAPLING (photo credit: ILRI/Duy Vu).

On the second day of the workshop, participants reviewed and finalized the TOC (identified gaps, actors and assumptions), discussed priority innovations using trade-off analysis and scaling readiness assessment, agreed on the roles and responsibilities, and came up with a calendar of key activities. The project team and partners also reviewed potential project sites. Participants agreed on criteria for site selection including availability of feed resources, livestock population, infrastructure, land resources, poverty rate, awareness of local people, livestock waste treatment, support from local authorities, and alignment with the provincial livestock development strategy. Previous Li-chan – a livestock-based development project– sites (Chieng Chung and Chieng Luong communes of Mai Son District) were included as key project sites for SAPLING activities. Participants also explored the opportunities to expand the SAPLING initiative to other communes in Mai Son and other districts of Son La Province by scoring them based on the agreed criteria.

‘The outputs of today’s discussion offer many ideas to inform the design of the SAPLING initiative in Vietnam, said Nguyen Ngoc Toan, director, Sub-DAH Son La, at the end of the workshop. ‘The Sub-department of Livestock Production, Animal Health and Fisheries of Son La (Sub-DAH) will continue collaborating with SAPLING as a trusted and responsible partner to ensure successful implementation of the initiative’s activities,’ he added.

The SAPLING team will use the recommendations and outputs from the workshop to finalize the initiative’s design, workplan and project sites.

Fred Unger, regional representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in East and Southeast Asia, said the CGIAR initiative ‘will improve livelihoods, farmers ability to adapt to a changing climate and inclusiveness through livestock in Son La and the northwest of Vietnam.’ He noted that the project is unique in that it tackles interlinked challenges in a systems approach looking at animal health, animal genetics, feed and forages, nutrition and value chains. ‘SAPLING builds upon the work of the Li-chan project and will continue supporting the local authorities and communities in transforming the livestock sector for better lives of people. ILRI and ABC look forward to enhancing collaboration with national and international partners through SAPLING,’ he added.

SAPLING is one of 32 One CGIAR initiatives designed to achieve a world with sustainable and resilient food, land and water systems to deliver more diverse, healthy, safe, sufficient and affordable diets; and ensure improved livelihoods and greater social equality, within planetary and regional environmental boundaries. In Vietnam, one of its seven focus countries, (others are Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda), the initiative is coordinated by ILRI and ABC.