Flood-based agriculture in the Upper Mekong Delta

Publicado: 29 Julio 2022
Última edición: 21 Febrero 2023
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IUCN promoted and improved locally-practiced, flood-based (wetland) agriculture and livelihood models in the Vietnamese provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An. These practices were based on documented farmer knowledge and experience. Flood-based livelihoods were encouraged as a financially viable, low risk alternative to triple rice cropping (the dominant agricultural practice). They help enhance economic and climate resilience as well as conserve and restore the biodiversity found in Mekong Delta freshwater wetlands/floodplains. The intervention employed a Nature-based Solution and considered three systems - floating rice systems, lotus farming systems and rice aquaculture systems. In addition, due to increasing weather extremes, hybrid solutions were also explored (combination of dykes and floodplains). Hybrid models can better enable controlled flooding and adaptive approaches to overcome risks of drought and to manage the arrival and recession of floods to be more in tune with cropping needs. 


Sudeste Asiático
Scale of implementation
Campos de cultivo
Ecosistemas de agua dulce
Humedales (pantano, turberas)
Río, corriente
Actores locales
Fragmentación del hábitat y degradación
Manejo de incendios e inundaciones
Marco legal y normativo
Medios de vida sostenibles
Reducción de desastres
Servicios ecosistémicos
Standards/ certification
Other theme
Nature-Based Solutions
Pérdida de ecosistemas
Cosecha insostenible, incluida la sobrepesca
Falta de oportunidades de ingresos alternativos
Falta de conciencia del público y de los responsables de la toma de decisiones
Deficiente vigilancia y aplicación de la ley
Sustainable development goals
ODS 6 - Agua limpia y saneamiento
ODS 8 - Trabajo decente y crecimiento económico
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
ODS 13 - Acción por el clima
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 3: Incentivos reformados
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 5: Pérdida de hábitat reducida a la mitad o reducida
Meta 7: Agricultura, acuicultura y silvicultura
Meta 8: Reducción de la contaminación
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Marco de Sendai
Meta 2: Reducir el número de personas afectadas a nivel global para 2030
Meta 3: Reducir las pérdidas económicas directas por desastre en relación al PIB para 2030


Chợ Tháp Mười, Huyện Tháp Mười, Dong Thap 871400, Vietnam


Triple rice mono-cropping by poldering has been the dominant agricultural practice in the floodplains of the Mekong Delta. This practice caused significant losses of the seasonal floodplain in the Delta  as well as a decline of ecosystem functions, including reduced land fertility, declining flood resilience and decreased aquatic habitat and biodiversity. The negative impacts caused by increased flood risk also resulted in transboundary challenges between Vietnam and Cambodia. To address these challenges, the concept of flood-based agriculture as a Nature-based Solution emerged as part of a larger Programme of Work starting with the 2013 Mekong Delta Plan, which leveraged a number of projects that explored its feasibility. Initial studies of farmer initiatives and proof of concept in IUCN pilot sites were completed between 2015 and 2018. These fed into the design and implementation of similar projects in the region (e.g. those by the World Bank, IUCN and FAO).


primarily local farmers, government representatives

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

The building blocks highlight a number of key insights that emerged from the assessment of the flood-based agriculture intervention in Vietnam against the criteria and indicators of the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutionsᵀᴹ. While they do not give a full picture of what can be considered a Nature-based Solution as all criteria in the Standard are of equal importance, they illustrate some of the factors that made the introduction of this new farming model successful and highlight important next steps to increase uptake and scale-up, and ensure financial sustainability.


The main positive impacts of employing flood-based agriculture in the Upper Mekong Delta include improved flood risk management through enhanced ecosystem functions of floodplains. The conservation or restoration of flood retention capacities supported aquifer recharge, a reduction in land subsidence and the conservation or restoration of aquatic habitat/biodiversity. Additional positive impacts include the possibility of wild fisheries, mitigation of river erosion through the re-establishment of natural hydrology of seasonal flooding and increased land fertility, including through sediment deposition due to the seasonal flooding.



In 2016, the Flood Retention Strategy for the Mekong Delta was proposed, which allows provinces to plan in a more coordinated manner across floodplains and to protect ecosystems. Flood-based livelihood models, such as lotus farming, floating rice systems and rice-aquaculture, are included in the Strategy as financially viable options for farmers.


Conversion to flood-based agricultural practices have numerous benefits for local farmers. Intensive lotus farming has already demonstrated that the increased storage of flood water (approx. 1,500 m³ per 1,000 m²) has increased the abundance of fish, crab and water birds. Moreover, there is no longer a need for chemical or pesticide use.   


The benefits of this Nature-based Solution have also been recognised by local farmers:


Mr Nguyen Ngoc Hon, an experienced lotus farmer from MyHoa commune, Thap Muoi District, said: “I strongly believe that the farmers in the high dyke areas will be willing to convert to lotus farming models if the profit from lotus is higher than rice cultivation, so the flood retention strategy is a feasible target. Of course, lotus farming can hold more water than rice cultivation. Therefore, it helps to regulate the environment better. I think the lotus models can adapt with climate change impacts because it can deal with floods and droughts as well. Planting lotus produces higher incomes while it is better for the environment!”

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Kristin Meyer International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

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