A new research exchange has taken place in Sweden this autumn. Rachmat Mulia, from Vietnam, is among other activities, exploring smallholders’ perspectives on the social and economic dimensions of agriculture and food security.
What is your background?
-I’m a researcher at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Vietnam, an institution that aims to promote agroforestry as a sustainable cropping and land use system, for rural development and resilience. I have more than ten years experience at ICRAF, in assessing impacts of cropping and land use strategies with agroforestry in different countries, and topics sush as smallholder and rural economy, food security, and landscapes’ ecosystem services. Providing and analysing data on rural households’ socio-economic dimensions are also an integral part of the assessment that I am doing.
In 2005, I obtained a PhD degree from the Department of Integrated Biology at Montpellier University and the National Institute of Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences, France.
What have you been doing during your visit in Sweden and in the AgriFoSe2030 programme?
-I’m involved in Theme 1 “Social and economic dimensions of smallholder-based agriculture and food security” led by the Department of Human Geography, Lund University, and I am doing research in collaboration with the department during a 3-months’ period. The theme covers six regions including Vietnam as one of the Asian countries.
The aim of the collaboration is to work together with experts in the department in synthesizing existing studies on rural transformation and economy in Vietnam, and its link with changes in socio-economic dimensions of smallholder farmers and rural communities in the country. Additional knowledge from the analysis of available data sources is also deemed as necessary.
The main expert and also my supervisor at the department is Prof. Magnus Jirström who is the leader of Theme 1. For the purpose of effective collaboration and analysis, I’m currently based in the Department of Human Geography since mid of August 2018, and I’m now in the last month towards the end of the visit namely October 31, 2018.
A review on rural transformation and economy in Vietnam and a related presentation in the parallel session of 2018 Development Research conference have been the progress of the collaboration until now. A short analysis that investigates the role of livelihood diversification in improving smallholder and rural economy in Vietnam will be the target to complete this month, along with the project report and a policy brief.
What are your expectations of the work you are doing in AgriFoSe2030?
-Vietnam has experienced a remarkable economic growth during the last three decades, but disparity in the extent of economic development still prevails between urban and rural areas, and among different regions in the country that have diverse socio-economic and geographical conditions.
First, the review of the rural transformation and economy will provide an useful overview of the background, achievements and challenges of economic development in the country. This includes the progress in eradicating poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, among poor communities, ethnic minorities, with gender and youth as cross-cutting issues.
Second, the analysis of livelihood diversification in smallholder and rural regions will provide a clear picture of the potential of livelihood diversification in improving smallholder and rural income.
Through the results of this study, i.e. in the form of project report and policy brief, we expect that different stakeholders and especially policy-makers in the country can be better informed and can recognize potential strategies to reduce differences between urban and rural economies. It hopes to help answer the question: what are the potential ways to eradicate poverty in poor communities and ethnic minorities that usually dominate the population in the upland regions of the country?
Tell us one thing that you are passionate about related to food security and sustainable agriculture
-It’s ironic that smallholder farmers, who are notably the food producers, and even in some cases contribute to a country’s export, are amongst those who become the targets of aid and development programmes that fight poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Low product quality and agricultural price, uncertainty in production due to climate change and variability, lack of access to markets due to underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of diversity in income sources, and lack of knowledge in -and access to- nutritious and healthy food are among the major explanatory factors. These types of constraints to development most often prevail and are worse in remote regions such as in the uplands of Vietnam. They also often involve ethnic minorities, women and youth.
My main interest and concern is how to overcome these constraints. Moreover, I believe it is important to explore smallholders’ perspectives related to these issues, since access to sufficient and nutritious foods is the most basic human need. It is the foundation to develop oneself into further stages and achievements in life.