In defiance of difficulties induced by climate change, natural disasters, and output markets, many farmers in Nga Son district of the north-central province of Thanh Hoa have escaped prolonged poverty thanks to the professional models of black tiger shrimp farming, intercropped with green crabs and tilapia.
Despite the piercing cold winter weather, 43-year-old Trinh Van Hoan, wakes up early to walk to his family’s two-hectare pond, at which he will continue to raise black tiger shrimp and tilapias. In recent weeks he has been renovating the pond in order to begin a new season for the next two months.
“I am dredging the pond, sanitising it, and strengthening the pond’s banks before pumping clean water into it and raising new shrimp and tilapias,” Hoan told.
Living in coastal Nga Tan commune, located in Nga Son district of Thanh Hoa, Hoan has been raising shrimp for five years – a trade that has only helped his four-member family ensure sufficient livelihoods, without creating any major savings. This has made it difficult for him to expand the trade and purchase more assets for his family.
However, in July last year Hoan was supported 94,000 breeding black tiger shrimp and 1,890 tilapias breeds by a project to improve the resilience of coastal communities to climate change in Vietnam, funded jointly by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Vietnamese government, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In addition, at that time Hoan’s family also purchased 40,500 breeding shrimp and 810 breeding tilapias of the type from the market. Altogether he raised 135,000 shrimp and 2,700 tilapias.
Last October, about 1.65 tonnes of shrimp and 900kg of tilapias were caught and sold to the market at an average price of VND300,000 ($13) and VND45,000 ($1.95) per kg, respectively, with total revenues of about VND495 million ($21,500) from the shrimp and VND40.5 million ($1,760) from the tilapias.
“This was the highest-ever revenue that we have earned so far,” Hoan said.
However, what has been more valuable is that in addition to receiving some feed for initial production, Hoan has been equipped with special knowledge from the project’s professional technical training course offering modern techniques in raising black tiger shrimp and tilapias, improving the quality of water used for the pond, and enabling the farmers to increase their product sales as the stocks are free from diseases.
Also in Nga Tan commune, like Hoan, the farmer family of Mai Thi Nga, 50, also benefited from the project in 2020 – the first time they did that since they began raising shrimp in 2015.
In early July last year, Nga’s four-member household also received 94,000 breeding black tiger shrimp and nearly 1,900 breeding tilapias from the initiative. The family at that time also owned another 40,500 breeding black tiger shrimp and 810 breeding tilapias. All of them were raised together.
A few months later in October the stocks were sold, with nearly two tonnes of shrimp worth over VND555 million ($24,100) and 1,100kg of tilapias valued at over VND49.5 million ($2,150). The breeds provided were far better than ordinary ones sourced from the market.
“The trade has been changed by the project. We have earned high incomes and especially known how to raise shrimp and tilapias in a more professional manner – meaning we can ensure the trade can develop sustainably in the future,” Nga said.
The model of black tiger shrimp farming intercropped with tilapias in Nga Tan district commune is considered a profitable trade for local residents in the context that shrimp farming is facing big risks of diseases and abnormal weather conditions.
According to UNDP and VNForest experts, tilapias biologically can coexist with black tiger shrimp or white-leg shrimp. Being an omnivorous animal, the tilapia can deal with aquatic algae and discharged organic waste. This can ensure the quality of the water habitat, and reduce the risk of catching diseases for the shrimp. Moreover, this model can help farmers to take maximum advantage of the water surface and especially increase their income.
“Mangrove forest is the green wall to protect the people and their assets from storms, typhoons and to mitigate the risks of climate change. It can only be protected and regenerated sustainably if the local livelihood is improved and therefore local pressure on the mangrove forest is reduced,” said Vu Thai Truong, UNDP programme management specialist.
With its support for vulnerable people hurt by natural disasters, the project has also supported 15 households in Nga Son district’s Nga Thuy commune, which borders Nga Tan district, through a model of black tiger shrimp farming intercropped with green crabs which have helped change their livelihoods.
Farmer Tran Van Dien from Nga Thuy commune never thought about the fact that his family was granted last July 7,000 breeding black tiger shrimp and 70 breeding green crabs for free. Like many other beneficiaries, Dien, who has been raising shrimp since 2010, also already had 30 crabs and 3,000 shrimp of his own.
“We raised these 10,100 heads together. In late October, we harvested and sold them, at an average price of VND250,000 ($11) per kg of shrimp and VND400,000 ($17) per kg of crabs,” Dien said. “All of the other 14 households also benefited from big revenues.”
Dien’s total output was one tonne of shrimp and 47kg of crabs, meaning over VND250 million ($10,900) for shrimp sales and VND18.8 million ($817) for crab sales.
“This model is extremely effective. Crabs can eat leftovers from the shrimp at the bottom of the pond. This is a good cycle of the feeds, helping to protect the environment,” Dien said. “The breeds from the project are quite good. In addition, we have also gained much knowledge and know-how from the training courses that have helped us to conduct sustainable production and business.”
Dien is now renovating his farm covering nearly two hectares of water surface. He will continue the new shrimp season this March.
According to a report from the Project Management Unit of Thanh Hoa, after four months of raising shrimp and crabs in Nga Thuy commune, all the beneficiary households reported that the average weight of each black tiger shrimp is 26 grammes at least, with the rate of live shrimp being over 50 per cent, and the average weight of each green crab hit 310g, with the live rate sitting at over 60 per cent.
Thanh Hoa boasts a total area of about 4,300ha for brackish fishery production and another 7,500ha for intercropping fishery and rice cultivation. The climate change impacts on the province’s fishery activities have led to changes in farming methods with farmers hoping to raise productivity, output, and economic effectiveness.
“The models of black tiger shrimp farming intercropped with green crabs and tilapias have ushered in big prospects for farmers as they helped the farmers approach new production techniques, with higher incomes and environmental protection,” said Nguyen Viet Nghi, coordinator of the Project Management Unit in Thanh Hoa. “These models need to be expanded to many other localities as they have high economic effectiveness.”
For example, the model of black tiger shrimp farming intercropped with green crabs is 25-30 per cent higher in economic effectiveness than raising the shrimp in monoculture. Meanwhile, the model of black tiger shrimp farming intercropped with tilapia is 35-40 per cent higher in economic effectiveness than raising the shrimp in monoculture.
Pham Van Hieu, husband of farmer Mai Thi Nga from Nga Tan commune said that these models should be multiplied as many other farmers in the commune are expecting to be supported by the project.
“The farmers have visited our farms and learnt some experiences in raising black tiger shrimp and tilapias. The knowledge from the training courses are quite useful,” Hieu pointed out.
Meanwhile, farmer Tran Van Dien also said, “If the intercropping model is expanded to the whole commune, it would be great as the farmers will be able to have additional incomes, meaning their livelihood will be further improved. However, they still need more support from the state. For example, the land rental timeframe should be extended to over 10 years, not several years as it is now. This will help farmers to boost investment and expand production.”