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Stapimex’s Green Farm in the Mekong Delta


At a glance, Green Farm looks like any other shrimp farm.  The 35-hectare facility has 46 ponds, each between 1 and 1.5 meters deep and aerated by paddlewheels that run around the clock.  Shrimp are separated by species and size, but they don’t grow in the same way as those in most of the farms across the Mekong Delta.  At Green Farm, antibiotics aren’t used, the wastewater cannot be released without being treated, and the company has to trace the origin of the raw materials used in its shrimp feeds.


Green Farm was certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council in September 2016.  The requirements are strict, and the costs are high, but certification was crucial to the survival of Stapimex, the company that owns Green Farm, in a sector hard hit by climate change and the pollution that built up over the decades of excesses in various industries.  “We wanted a business that was sustainable in the long term,” explains Nguyen Dang Khoa, quality manager at the company.


Following Vietnam’s economic reforms in 1986, production in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sectors grew rapidly, and the pesticides, fertilizers and waste from the farms ended up in the waters of the Mekong Delta, along with all the household wastes.


“Most of the pollution in the Delta comes from agriculture and the cities,” says Huynh Quoc Tinh, an aquaculture project manager for the World Wildlife Fund in Vietnam.  The region is also one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change.


According to a WWF report from 2009, the effects of climate change could already be felt back then, with higher average temperatures, more intense and devastating rains, and more frequent extreme climatic events, as well as increased salinization due to seawater intrusion.


In addition, unbridled development has left its mark on the Delta and is threatening the very survival of the region.  The high concentration of shrimp farms has led to outbreaks of disease and high mortalities in the shrimp ponds, while the dams being built by the neighboring countries, especially Laos and China, through which the Mekong River flows, are affecting the amount of sediment and, in turn, the nutrients in the soil.


Last year, the weather phenomenon El Niño caused the worst drought in the Mekong Delta in almost a century, increasing salinity and affecting 400,000 hectares of crops due to the loss of fertility, rendering 25,000 hectares of land useless for future use.


Green Farm is not alone in its battle against the effects of the intensive development in the Mekong Delta.  Increasing numbers of companies are trying to obtain sustainable certification or improve their practices.  “The fact that some companies are adopting sustainable standards is also affecting non-certified farms, which are following their example,” says Tinh of the WWF.


Stapimex also buys non-certified shrimp from small producers in the area to supply its processing plants.  According to the company’s quality manager, these suppliers began improving their practices following the launch of Green Farm.


Source: EqualTimes.org.  Mekong Delta Fights for Survival Amidst Climate Change and Unbridled Development (This article was translated from Spanish).  Laura Villadiego (Twitter: @lauravilladiego).  August 15, 2017.


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