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Vietnam is a Southeast-Asian country located at the eastern end of the Indochina Peninsula. Its capital is Hanoi, and its population, according to 2012 estimates is about 91.5 million people. Vietnam was able to join the World Trade Organization in 2007 due to its economic reforms and amazingly rapid growth since 2000. 

Vietnam is divided into 64 provinces. There are five municipalities, which administratively enjoy the same status as provinces. The provinces are subdivided into municipalities, townships, and counties. The counties are subdivided into towns or communes, which are further subdivided into wards. The country has a number of active seaports. 

The climate of Vietnam varies in various locations. The winter season in most parts of the country is dry as compared to the summer or rainy season. Plains are generally warmer than the mountainous areas as are southern areas compared to the northern region. 

About 80 percent of Vietnam’s population lives in rural areas, and there are over 11 million household farms in the country. Individual farm sizes vary but are generally small, about 0.2 hectares. Land reforms undertaken by the government have recognized the household as the basic unit of production and, as such, have allocated land use rights to the households. These rights, according to the Land Law of 1993, can be transferred, exchanged, leased, inherited or mortgaged. The process of land reform, however, continues with more changes expected. 

In 2004, agriculture and forestry sectors accounted for 21.8 percent of Vietnam’s GDP. In 2005, about 60 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture, forestry and fishery. During the same year, agricultural products constituted about 30 percent of the exports. Rice is cultivated in over 94 percent of arable land, and an elaborate system of irrigation in the northern region enables farmers to raise two to three crops annually. Vietnam is one of the top three largest rice exporters in the world. Its other cash crops are coffee, cotton, peanuts, sugarcane, tea and rubber. The main food crops, other than rice, include maize, cassava, sweet potato and beans. 


A formal public extension system in Vietnam was started by the government in March 1993 with the establishment of the National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Department within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD). The task of extension in fishery was allocated to the Department of Aquaculture Management within the Ministry of Fishery. The government established 64 Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Extension Centers, that is one center in each of the 64 provinces, under the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). 

In 2003, the National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Department was divided into two units: National Agricultural Extension Center (NAEC), and Department of Agriculture (DoA). Both units, however, remain under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. At the same time, the National Fishery Extension Center was created within the Ministry of Fishery. 

In January 2008, when the Ministry of Fishery was merged into the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Fishery Extension Center was also merged into the NAEC. At present, NAEC is the national level extension organization, which covers disciplines of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishery and rural industry. Presently, many public and civil society actors are engaged in extension activities. They include public extension offices, NGOs, research institutes, academic institutions, mass organizations (such as Women’s Union, Farmers’ Associations, Youth Union, Old Peoples’ Union, War Veterans Association), and private companies that sell agricultural inputs. 

Main problems faced by extension services include: the skills and knowledge of the front-one extension workers (i.e. there is about one extension worker covering about 280 farm households); absence of comprehensive extension support to replace the present production-focused approach; little emphasis on processing and marketing; top-down program planning; a lack of location-specific extension approach in spite of so many micro-climates and ethnic groups of farmers; inadequate encouragement of non-public actors, especially the private sector, by the government to enhance extension service delivery (even though the Vietnamese agriculture has steadily been adopting an export culture); very low operational funds (about $2 per farm household); little in-service training of staff; and a lack of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of extension programs. Three main extension methods used by government extension services are individual contacts with farmers through visits, letters and telephone; group contacts with farmers through demonstrations, study tours, training and meetings; and the use of mass media such as conventional newspapers, radio and television programs, electronic newspapers, advertisements, leaflets, etc. 
Andrea Bohn,
11/1/2011 15:54