Threat of cassava mosaic disease, strengthening resilience to climate disasters, dominate conversations between CIAT and Vietnam agricultural institutions

Threat of cassava mosaic disease, strengthening resilience to climate disasters, dominate conversations between CIAT and Vietnam agricultural institutions

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) officially renewed this week their scientific cooperation in agriculture and rural development, in a signing ceremony held at the Ministry’s national headquarters in Hanoi.

CIAT Director General Ruben Echeverria and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development-International Cooperation Director General Tran Kim Long, at the signing of an expanded cooperation agreement in Hanoi this week. Photo by Madelline Romero/CIAT

Present at the ceremony were MARD International Cooperation Director General Mr. Tran Kim Long, representing MARD Vice-Minister Dr. Le Quoc Doanh, and CIAT Director General Dr. Ruben Echeverria, accompanied by CIAT Asia Director Dr. Dindo Campilan.

The MOU marks the expansion of the MARD-CIAT collaborative agenda that will now seek to: increase crop and livestock productivity, improve quality of food and nutrition among Vietnamese food producers and consumers, improve management of the country’s natural resources, and strengthen resilience of Vietnamese farmers, including against climate-induced natural disasters.

“It is important that results of agricultural research be translated into concrete policies to aid investment decisions of the Vietnam government,” Director General Tran Kim Long said. “We request CIAT to work closely with MARD towards achieving these policy outcomes, and, ultimately, the livelihood development of farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.”

Vietnam began its partnership with CIAT, a CGIAR scientific research center, over 30 years ago. CIAT scientists initially worked with Vietnamese counterparts in developing high-yielding, locally adapted and market-oriented cassava varieties. This cooperation is widely acknowledged as a big contributor to Vietnam’s current status as the world’s second-largest exporter of cassava starch and dried chips — an industry that generates over USD 1 billion per year in export earnings for the country.

Leaves of CMD-affected plants show mosaic and mottling symptoms. Photo by Madelline Romero/CIAT

Earlier in the day, CIAT also signed a cooperation agreement with Vietnam’s Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI), under the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) of MARD. PPRI Vice-General Director Trinh Xuan Hoat expressed concerns about cassava mosaic disease (CMD) in Vietnam which, he said, has already been found in three of Vietnam’s southern provinces. According to him, CMD is the current biggest threat to the country’s cassava industry, and they are looking to work with partners to find CMD-resistant varieties to help halt spread of the disease in Vietnam. CMD is caused by a virus and is transmitted through whiteflies or infected planting materials. Depending on the severity of the disease and age of the plant at the time of infection, CMD causes the cassava plant to produce few or no tubers at all.

Following the signing ceremony, a working-group meeting was held to define CIAT’s role in supporting MARD’s Nong Thon Moi – “The New Commune” – rural development program. The program’s Director-General, Mr. Nguyen Minh Tien, endorsed three areas for CIAT expertise support to the program: scaling of climate-smart villages, designing climate information services in disaster-prone communities, and farmer business schools to link small-scale farmers with modern markets.

Photo by Le Pham/CIAT

“Vietnam is at an ever exciting phase of growth, and CIAT is privileged to be in a position where we could be part of this growth,” CIAT Director General Ruben Echeverria noted. “Through the regional knowledge hubs – on cassava molecular breeding, forages and livestock, microbial biotechnology, climate policy, and food systems – that we and our partners have established here in Vietnam, we hope to meaningfully contribute to finding solutions to challenges, and to the advancement of agricultural research and development, in Vietnam and the rest of the countries in Asia.”