The Mekong Delta Plan
Joining forces to ensure food security and a productive fresh food supply chain
Food security is one of the most serious challenges facing the world today. Rapid population growth coupled with the impact of climate change on crops urges a radical change in our approach to the food supply chain.
In our aims to improve global food security, Royal HaskoningDHV headed the Holland-Delta Consortium to advise Vietnam on how to make best use of the Mekong Delta. This consortium developed a plan for the region to help farmers maximise productivity and safeguard crops through the use of available fresh water.
Effective Land Management
As part of this work, a project entitled ‘Towards a Mekong Delta Portal’ makes real-time data available via a web-based information portal called ‘Lizard’. This data provides information relating to flood events, droughts, land use and dikes.
In addition, user-friendly apps relating to specific topics (such as flood and drought) assist farmers in managing these situations more effectively. For example, local authorities can improve dike management by installing remote sensors inside dikes using applications to monitor and inspect their condition.
New Approach to the Food Chain
Dutch consortium-member Dr. Bart van Ahee, who lives in Vietnam, explains how the project began: “The whole idea started with us (Wil Duivenvoorden and me) wondering why bananas grown in the ASEAN region were not available to EU consumers. Initially, we focussed on post-harvesting distribution and asked ourselves whether dedicated storage conditions (in both warehouse and transport) could stretch the natural ripening process of a banana from eight days to 35 days. Our research showed that it was possible for a banana to reach the EU region after 35 days without over-ripening.
“Working alongside Royal HaskoningDHV and Ho Chi Minh University for Food Industry (HUFI), we created a business case to establish a new approach to the entire food chain. This included farming, harvest, storage and logistics. HUFI has great ambitions for the Mekong Delta region and intends to establish a model farm where this new approach can be demonstrated - if possible with involvement from Wageningen University.”
Multiple Projects for Local Prosperity
Royal HaskoningDHV is involved in several projects along the Mekong Delta, which aim to mitigate the impacts of drought and flooding. These projects are extremely important to local farmers, as they not only help protect their precious crops, but safeguard their homes and property, and most importantly, their families’ health and wellbeing.
The consortium’s ongoing projects in the region include cost reduction innovations like mini-hydropower plants. These projects enable small-scale family farmers and co-operatives to make connections with the EU region and sell their harvest at higher prices by reducing waste downstream in the supply chain. In turn, consumers in Europe enjoy new fruits, while family farmers along the Mekong Delta enjoy greater food and financial security - boosting the local economy.
Big Data for Sustainable Deltas
Bart van Ahee concludes: “Reducing waste is a huge factor in maintaining food security. It’s shocking that 30% to 50% of all food produced around the world never makes it to the table. About two billion tonnes end up as waste every year, which means that about 550 billion cubic metres of water are wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer. We’re working towards a significant reduction in wasted food – and eradicating hunger for the two million children younger than five years old who still die of starvation all over the world each year.
“The Mekong Delta work represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be achieved in agriculture, with small but scalable applications using ‘Big Data’. These approaches are not yet familiar in managing global food supply chains from field to fork; but together with other organisations, we are determined to continue developing similar initiatives - living proof that creative thinking can advance sustainability.
“RoyalHaskoningDHV together with other Dutch and local small to medium-sized innovators and first adopters can use their integral experience in Vietnam for many other deltas in the world.”
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