“Paddy is our life, but many people don’t want us to grow paddy anymore,” laments Pham Van Tuan, a rice farmer in Can Tho province of Vietnam. “Big people from Ho Chi Minh City say that our paddy is causing climate change and water scarcity in the world.”
Paddy cultivation emits over 10 percent of global agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consumes 21 percent of the total water volume used for global crop production. Water is increasingly scarce in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, which has been hit by record droughts in recent years. Solutions that help farmers like Pham Van Tuan to grow rice while drastically reducing GHG emission and water usage would be a game-changer for the Mekong Delta. Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is one such practice where rice fields are alternately flooded and dried, and water levels kept low during the flooded stage. This irrigation practice reduces water use up to 28 percent and methane emissions up to 48 percent. With such immense benefits, one would expect that this practice is applied far and wide. But that is not so. Why?