In the introductory video below you will see a particular local example of a food system, presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. As you watch, look for examples of Human and Natural system components in a local food system particular to the Red River Delta in Vietnam, and the way that the food system has changed over time. Human and Natural system components were introduced in Module 1, and we have been referring to them regularly along the way in the course, as we have considered the natural system elements in agroecosystems and the way these are managed by humans. Now we will begin to take a larger, whole systems view of food systems.
Please watch the below video celebrating world food day 2013, which describes the Vietnamese “Garden, Pond, Livestock Plan” (V.A.C) food system.
Video: World Food Day 2013 (6:52)
- Click for transcript of the world food day 2013 video.
Narrator: In the Red River Delta area around Hanoi, peasant farmers have worked the rice fields for thousands of years. Zune started farming at 18, when he returned to his village after years of war. Zune: From 1975 to 1984 there was real hunger. At that time, we had cooperative markets and we suffered from hunger. We always had to borrow for our meals. Our life was so hard. Narrator: Now, after decades of economic reform, farmers can lease land from the government, decide what to raise, and sell what their farms produce at market. Combined with wide scale support for agriculture, what emerged was a sustainable food system that works, now known as VAC farming. Nguyen Ngoc Triu, Pesident, VACVINA: VAC in Vietnamese is vuon, ao, chuong, which means garden, pond, livestock pen. Vietnamese families, especially in the Delta areas, that normally have a pond in front or in the back of their house. They also have gardens and pig pens. This is an integrated system. Narrator: Waste products from one part of the system are recycled and used by other parts of the system. Even the nutrient-rich silt from the bottom of the pond is recycled to fertilize the garden and create new land for fruit and vegetables. Fish this year are the main business of Zune’s farm. Zune: In the pond I have pike, carp, bighead carp and mudcarp. As an example, normally we can have productivity of two and half tons of fish. After expenses of about 700 US dollars, my net income is 1700 US dollars per year. Narrator: The pigs provide income, but they play yet another role in this complete system that links fish farming, gardening, and livestock. Biogas from the pigs powers the gas cooker in the family's kitchen. Zune: For example, with the pig pen we don't have to buy gas for cooking. The manure is used for fish production. The biogas system helps protect the environment. We also use manure for the garden. The wastewater of biogas is very good for irrigating crops. This type of irrigation water is better than nitrate. Narrator: Zune and his family make anywhere from five to seven thousand a year from all the activities on the farm. All the food they eat is produced here. With the farms profits, Zune’s children have attended school and university and Zune is constantly reinvesting and expanding the farm. Good nutrition is another benefit of VAC. The system is widely credited with increasing people's consumption of fish and animal proteins, and fruit and vegetables, grown according to the seasons, but all year round. Huong Nguyen Thi, National Programme Officer FAO Viet Nam: The VAC system has been there like for 30 or 35 years. It plays quite important role in providing nutritional intake for a small household level, especially in the area where land is very limited. So they can create a nutritional intake for their own family, and at the same time they can have some kind of surplus from agriculture production, and they can sell at the market or share with other surrounding family in the community. Narrator: Today, Vietnam is the world's number two rice exporter. But the Vietnamese have much more than just rice. Sound policy making and investment and nutrition education, for women especially, have brought about a whole of society response that's created just one type of sustainable food system. What can we learn from it? First, all of us need to understand that food comes to us through food systems. They can be local, global, or a bit of both. Next we need to recognize that we ourselves are part of our food systems. Only then can we begin to play a positive role by learning about nutrition, teaching our children, making good choices as consumers, and wasting less food. A food system, after all, is people and what they do, from farm to fork, to feed the body and the mind. As they say, you are what you eat.