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Agricultural Extension in Vietnam:
in Need of Better Institutional Arrangements

Tran Thanh Be

Department of Agriculture Economics, A04, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

The purpose of the poster is to provide an overview of the current extension arrangements and issues in Vietnam and alternative approaches for improvement.

Vietnam is one of the developing countries in the South east Asia. Agriculture is the main sector in the economy of Vietnam as it employs 60 percent of the labour force, contributes of 27 percent of GDP and 60 percent of exports. Recent studies, especially on integrated farming systems, show that extension needs for agricultural and rural development in Vietnam are many. The extension system of the country is, however, newly developed and is a long way from being able to meet such requirements.

By the Prime Minister's Decree No. 13/CP dated in 1993, the nation-wide unique extension system (for agriculture, forestry and fisheries) was established in Vietnam. Under this new institutional arrangement, both the professional extension system and voluntary organisations are undertaking extension activities.

The professional extension system, supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) which was unified (in 1995) from the three Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management, has currently developed from the central level (Division of Agricultural & Forestry Extension) to all provinces (Agricultural Extension Centres) and 70 percent of districts (Agricultural Extension Stations). As well as the services under the supervision of MARD, in a number of provinces there are separate Fisheries Extension Centres that are under the direction of the Provincial Department of Fisheries and Ministry of Fisheries.

At national and regional levels, out of over one hundred research institutions and universities throughout the country, around some dozen with interests in agricultural fields are carrying out teaching, research and extension. Extension activities of such research and education bodies are considered as 'voluntary'.

Additionally, other organisations undertake 'voluntary' extension work in their own right. They include state and private enterprises (agribusiness), international research and development organisations and NGOs, banks, and so on. In particular, the mass organisations in Vietnam, including Farmers’ Association, Women’s Union, Youth Union, whose networks are established further down in villages, hamlets, groups, are expected to do their work effectively at the 'grass roots' levels.

Current issues of extension in Vietnam are: (1) establishment of involvement from 'voluntary' organisations has been limited, (2) collaboration between the professional extension system and 'voluntary' organisations is loose, (3) there is little feedback from local people to research and extension organisations, and so (4) the efficiency of extension is uneven.

Possible alternatives are: (1) privatisation of extension (charged services), (2) better collaboration between research, extension and mass organisations.

Conclusion: Better institutional arrangements for comprehensive collaboration between the professional extension system and mass organisations and research institutions will facilitate the two-way communication process (technology transfer and feedback) between them and local people, and so improve the efficiency of extension activities in Vietnam.

The 'message' here is to emphasise that extension is not the simple job of one-way technology transfer done by only 'professional' extension workers, rather it is 'development' and needs real collaboration between many organisations and individuals.

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