Agriculture is the single most important economic activity in the Lower Mekong Basin. With more than 20 per cent of the population considered to be living below the poverty line, and 15 percent undernourished, the sector provides livelihoods for approximately 60 percent of the Mekong Basin’s inhabitants.
Under the Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the MRC’s Agriculture and Irrigation Programme (AIP) aimed at managing the sustainable development of water resources in agriculture, because the sector is one of the first points of intervention to raise living standards, improve livelihoods and mitigate poverty.
For example, paddy fields act as a cradle producing natural food for fish growth and in return, food for farmers. The programme worked on improving farmers’ crop production, and therefore food security, by demonstrating the diverse functions of paddy fields. It also worked towards improved irrigation to assure that the sector’s water management is more sustainable in the future.
Due to the inextricable link between agriculture, food security and climate change, the programme primarily focused its activities on water management in the sector.
Monitoring agricultural water use is crucial to understanding the basin-wide flow regime. While the scales of individual AIP irrigation projects were small at the national level, cumulative impacts on the flow regime are considerable and affect agricultural communities throughout the Lower Mekong Basin.
In preparation for natural events that impact farmers’ livelihoods such as climate change, extreme floods and droughts, the AIP relayed real time flood and drought monitoring conditions to local and national agencies in order to better prepare men and women in the basin for emergency situations.
The programme’s work also covered topics such as forestry and watershed management issues. Read more about the agriculture sector changes in Redefining MRC’s role in agriculture and water management.
Paddy fields produce food, but they also provide other useful functions including flood mitigation, groundwater recharge, river flow stabilisation, capture and re-use of irrigation water, erosion control, and microclimate regulation as well as uses by rural households. MRC’s Demonstration of Multi-functionality of Paddy Fields over the Mekong River Basin project, as part of the AIP, revealed the vital importance of the myriad functions of paddy fields at target locations in Thailand and Viet Nam.
Efficient irrigation is necessary to ensure water is available for agricultural development as well as development in other sectors. MRC has supported the improvement of irrigation efficiency by providing technical guidance to water managers and national level planners. MRC completed the Improvement of Irrigation Efficiency on the Paddy Fields in the Lower Mekong Basin project and is building on this work in a new Sustainable and Efficient Water Use project. Through its Planning Division, the MRC will continue to promote more efficient practices in irrigated agriculture, focusing on irrigation planning (water allocation) and irrigation scheduling (daily water distribution).
To know more about the Agriculture and Irrigation Programme, review the Programme Document.
For more information about Agriculture and Irrigation and Forestry in the Mekong River Basin visit the Agriculture and Irrigation Topic page.
The Government of Japan supported the Agriculture and Irrigation Programme.