MPA-DP Summer Placement in Hanoi, Vietnam

Nausher Khan MPA-DP ’19 shares his Summer Field Placement experience in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Over the course of the summer, I along with my MPA-DP colleague, Claire Thibault worked with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Hanoi as part of the inaugural Columbia World Project (CWP). The CWP is titled ACToday: Adapting agriculture to climate today for tomorrow and is a collaboration between the International Research Institute at Columbia University and strategic partners in 6 countries. The project is operational in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Senegal, Colombia and Guatemala and is scheduled to run for 5 years commencing in 2018. The CWP is mandated with working with the relevant national governments and civil society organisations to enhance their capacity in adapting their food systems to the changing climate.

These countries have been chosen as they are predominantly agriculture based economies which are severely vulnerable to climate change. Vietnam is the third largest producer of coffee and second largest producer of rice in the world, however due to its placement proximal to the south China sea, it has experienced a proliferation of extreme weather events over the preceding decade. Additionally, due to the global sea level rise, the Mekong delta in the south of Vietnam is subject to saline intrusion, rendering rice paddies situated on the river bed, extremely unproductive. A pattern of increased rains and typhoons in the north of the country, and drier and hotter summers in the South is posing a current and impending threat to the agricultural productivity of the country. Thus, ACToday is partnering with the ministry of natural resources and environment, ministry of agriculture and rural development, and with international organizations such as CIAT in Vietnam to build their adaptive and mitigative capabilities. The project aims to help the local government incorporate accurate Climate change projections and data into the development of their agricultural plans and setting of their food system priorities.

Over this summer, the MPA-DP student team working in Vietnam worked to conduct an extensive stakeholder analysis and needs assessment of the climate information services value chain. We were tasked with identifying the organisations and processes responsible for the production of climate information, the translation of that information into agricultural advisories, and the dissemination channels by which this information was reaching the farmers. This initial scoping will lay the foundation for the succeeding initiatives that will be established under the ambit of the ACToday program. Similar work was carried out in the remaining CWP countries and now as the strategic operations have been formalized In the respective countries, the project will enter the second phase and work in a localized manner to achieve the end goal of increased food security through a sustainable food system.

In addition to the conduction of the climate information service value chain analysis, I had the opportunity to document the experience in an audio-visual format. The purpose of this documentation would be to develop a short audio-visual case study to be used as a teaching aid for the students of Food systems in the coming years. This documentary followed the novel format of student-led filmmaking, primarily using an Iphone to record field experiences, day-day life and expert interviews. It will go to show the impact of climate change on Vietnamese agriculture, and capture the experience of working within the mandate of the CWP in Vietnam.