Drivers of change and adaptation pathways of agricultural systems facing increased salinity intrusion in coastal areas of the Mekong and Red River deltas in Vietnam

Nguyen, M. T., Renaud, F. G. and Sebesvari, Z. (2019) Drivers of change and adaptation pathways of agricultural systems facing increased salinity intrusion in coastal areas of the Mekong and Red River deltas in Vietnam. Environmental Science and Policy, 92, pp. 331-348. (doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.10.016)

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Abstract

Agricultural systems are increasingly considered complex adaptive systems. They are dependent on the integrated nature of biophysical and social sub-systems, continuously adapt to changing conditions and often display non-linear responses to various drivers of change at multiple scales. This research applied the lens of complex adaptive systems theory to analyze current and historical drivers of change and adaptation pathways of agricultural systems to increased salinity intrusion in coastal areas of the Red River and Mekong deltas in Vietnam since 1975. The analysis is based on 27 in-depth interviews with officials of local and national authorities as well as 198 semi-structured interviews and 11 focus group discussions conducted with farmers along three salinity transects in both deltas in 2015-2016. The results show that a dynamic interplay and feedback of various drivers of change such as policy intervention, farmers’ desire for profit maximization, changing salinity conditions, and technological development at different levels of the deltaic social-ecological system have shaped the changes and adaptations in agricultural systems over the last decades. In response to increased salinity intrusion, as exemplified by the historic salinity levels recorded in the Mekong Delta in 2015–2016, various adaptation options have been considered. These include adaptations that would lock-in agricultural production in particular systems or constrain changes in others, which is potentially problematic in light of the high uncertainty related to future changes. The study recognizes the need to apply both incremental and transformative changes and select adaptation pathways which allow for continuous change or that are reversible in order to avoid lock-ins and address future challenges. Additionally, attention should be drawn to interactions and feedbacks in future changes within and across adaptation pathways in order to prevent further increases in salinity intrusion and lock-in effects in agricultural systems within the deltas.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The research was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany through the Sustainable adaptation of coastal agro-ecosystems to increased salinity intrusion (DeltAdapt) project in Vietnam.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Renaud, Professor Fabrice
Authors: Nguyen, M. T., Renaud, F. G., and Sebesvari, Z.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Environmental Science and Policy
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1462-9011
ISSN (Online):1873-6416
Published Online:24 November 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in Environmental Science and Policy 92:331-348
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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