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'Three Reductions, Three Gains’: A New Approach to Agriculture



A participatory planning process was used to develop media campaigns called ‘Three Reductions, Three Gains’, to motivate rice farmers in the Mekong River Delta region to modify three resource management practices regarding the use of seed, fertilizer, and insecticide. The campaign focused on reducing use of these inputs, addressing farmers’ general misperception that high inputs would raise their production. The policy aimed to alleviate the poverty level of rice farmers and the population in general of Mekong River Delta region through promoting the right dosage of seed, fertilizer, and pesticide.

Built upon the success of a previous campaign on pest management called ‘No Early Spray’, the ‘Three Reductions, Three Gains’ programme was able to transfer scientific knowledge to a wide population of rice farmers. The project began with a farmers’ participatory research that involved 951 volunteer farmers in 11 provinces who self-evaluated the effects of the three reductions on their yields and incomes. To facilitate the development of communication strategies with the farmers, integrated theories and frameworks from social marketing, strategic extension campaigns, behavioral decision-making, and social psychology were combined with knowledge from agricultural sciences. The initiative included research to understand the farmers’ perspective on inputs in the production, the development of simple messages through participatory workshops, and the design of an environmental soap opera that make use of the simple messages to communicate the benefits of these new principles. The environmental soap opera, entitled Homeland Story, was created through a multi-stakeholder participatory workshop and is broadcast by Voice of Ho Chi Minh Radio.

The actors involved are local research, extension, mass media, local governments, NGOs, and other implementing agencies. The beneficiaries are rice farmers in Mekong River Delta and, indirectly, the whole population of this region. Key achievements have been a change in farmers’ attitudes about their agricultural practices, economic benefits from reducing the cost of high inputs, and better environmental quality through reducing pests and inputs that pollute the soil and air. The main obstacle encountered was related to the persistent convictions diffused among the farmers that high inputs in agriculture would result in higher profits. These beliefs, grounded in the local social praxis, strongly influenced rice cultivation in a way that led to polluting the environment and a low quality rice crop.

As suggested by this case, municipalities that want to adopt a similar policy through a media campaign must make the effort to simplify and structure the new research-based information into easy messages framed in a ‘gain’ format where the gains are easily demonstrated and articulated. A collaborative approach is essential to develop a comprehensive and knowledgeable understanding of the issues, as well as to engage multiple stakeholders during implementation processes. Further, the policy is optimally based on mutual learning between institutions and local communities, which jointly implemented the ‘3 giang 3 tang’ program.

These pilot experiments have been mainstreamed into a coherent network, became a new agricultural policy of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development in 2004, and have been expanded to the fields of aquaculture and fisheries in other areas of Vietnam.