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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

Water governance of minority communities in the Mekong Delta

PI:  Nguyen Van Kien ( and co-PI Nguyen Trung Thanh, Research Centre for Rural Development, An Giang University
U.S. Partners: Carol Xiaohui Song and Venkatesh Merwade, Purdue University
Project Dates: September 2014 to March 2019
Project brochure on rainwater harvesting                 Project brochure on automatic irrigation system                 Workshop Agenda - September 21-22, 2018

Water is critical to all life. Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of millions of people without access to proper water and sanitation facilities. Unequal or unethical distribution of water and access to resources is a critical issue worldwide. Underrepresented groups and minority communities are often the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and it is critically important to engage minority populations in the management of water resources. The goal of this research project is to work with underrepresented communities in Southern Vietnam to improve water resource management by studying water governance and water access within local villages. Specifically, this project will investigate and document water management knowledge of the Khmer communities in Southern Vietnam, where there is a big gap between science and knowledge in water governance. Not only is this research new and novel, but it also has the ability to strengthen the resilience of these communities to adapt and understand climate change.  The investigators involved in this project have already proven the importance of village-level analyses through previous work with the Vietnam Delta and on resilience of populations to flooding. This project will build on their previous work and will create new knowledge on underrepresented groups living in the Mekong Delta. The project will also strengthen the scientific merit of the hydrologic modeling work being conducted by the U.S. partners at Purdue University. Understanding management decisions and strategies of the Khmer people, as well as other underrepresented groups, can better inform the assumptions made in hydrologic modeling. 

The project directly addresses USAID’s objectives by improving water resource management and reforming governance. New information that can influence water resource management throughout the region will be gathered. The findings of the project are anticipated to give local water managers a better understanding about water governance of the Khmer community in order to better engage them in the decision making process. The findings of the project will help the Khmer community to have a better understanding about their existing water management, which currently  focuses more on quantity and less on quality. The integration of local knowledge and hydrologic science in water governance will be considered in order to achieve community resilience to climate change. The research study also relates to strengthening resilience and response to disasters. Learning from the knowledge within the Khmer community and providing educational materials to the community at the end of this study will better prepare the community to discuss and plan for future natural disasters as well.

3-190 Shallow Well3-190 O Lam Well
A traditional shallow well that exists inside or near many Khmer temples in the Tinh Bien district (photo courtesy of Dr. Kien, second from left).Children and women gather at the earth well in O Lam Commune of the Tri Ton district to collect shallow water for drinking. This water is perceived as very delicious (photo courtesy of Dr. Kien).

Summary of Recent Activities

An An Giang television program depicting project work at Khmer temples.
In the first half of 2018, the PI Dr. Kien undertook an updated literature review and data analysis in the process of writing papers and a book related to his PEER project. More importantly, the project team also undertook additional testing of its solar-powered automatic irrigation system for small-scale farmers, which was developed and tested in partnership with the Center for Information Technology and Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, An Giang University; a farmer who grows Chuc citrus trees; and the local government of Tri Ton District, An Giang Province. The aim of pilot testing this system is to promote the use of efficient local scientific products from the researchers of An Giang University and getting these tools into the hands of small farmers at the village level. The system has been adopted by a local NGO, GREEN ID, to apply in their project site in Tien Bien District, An Giang Province. The PI and his team hope to expand their work into a larger irrigation project for vegetable farms and fruit orchards in the mountainous and remote areas where there is no access to electricity. The pilot testing is being undertaken from March to August 2018. During the summer, Dr. Kien and his group will continue to engage with local government, community members, and NGOs to test and expand their research findings on automatic irrigation systems into the wider context. They will also continue preparing publications and make a field visit to monitor their rain water harvest systems and automatic irrigation system. A regional dissemination workshop entitled "Water governance, climate change, and food security in minority community, Vietnam" will be held at An Giang University September 21-22, 2018, and a no-cost extension has been issued through March 2019 to ensure sufficient time to complete publications.

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