From Rice to Shrimp: Ecological Change and Human Adaptation in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam

  • Ngo Thi Phuong Lan
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 45)


In the last few decades, structural transformation in agriculture has been considered a key to rural economic development in Vietnam. In the Mekong Delta, the most important rice basket of Vietnam, farmers have diversified their economic activities and engaged in production which involves high risks, partly due to global market price fluctuations. This change in livelihood patterns has resulted in a significant change in the Delta’s ecology.

This chapter analyzes socio-economic changes of human adaptation to a new living environment in two shrimp-farming communities in the Mekong Delta, one in the lower part (Ca Mau Province) and the other in the upper part of the Delta (Long An Province). It examines the changes in livelihood and local ecology when farmers shift from conventional rice cultivation to high-value shrimp-farming and thus, from fresh water to saline water ecology. The chapter concludes that the human environment is a social process in which people constantly shape their landscape and have to adapt to the “created” environment by changing their socioeconomic lives. In the shift from rice to shrimp, when people cannot adapt to ecological changes locally, labor migration is the best solution for their livelihood. This phenomenon can be seen as an indicator of agricultural unsustainability. My comparative study seeks to contribute to the understanding of socio-economic changes from an environmental perspective.


Ecological change Structural transformation in agriculture Gender division of labor Human adaptation Shrimp farming in Vietnam 


  1. Aquatic Information Center (2008) Xuất khẩu thủy sản chạm ngưỡng 4 tỷ USD (Aquatic export reaching 4 billion USD). Nov 2008
  2. Ca Mau People’s Committee (2008) Hiện trạng và Giải pháp Phát triển Nuôi tôm Nưẻc Lợ tại ĐBSCL (Present situation and solutions for brackish shrimp farming in the Mekong delta). 12 Sept 2008
  3. General Statistics Office (2006) Statistical yearbook of Vietnam. Thống kê publisher, HanoiGoogle Scholar
  4. General Statistics Office (2007) Statistical yearbook of Vietnam. Thống kê publisher, HanoiGoogle Scholar
  5. General Statistics Office (2008) Statistical yearbook of Vietnam. Thống kê publisher, HanoiGoogle Scholar
  6. Hendry J (1964) The Small World of Khanh Hau. Aldine Publishing Company, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  7. Huynh PT (2008) “Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long vào Cuộc Cạnh tranh Toàn cầu”. Trong Đồng bằng sông Cửu Long đồng hành cùng WTO. Vietnam Economic News. of The Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation)
  8. Mai TT et al (2006) Đánh giá mối quan hệ tự do hóa thương mại, đói nghèo nông thôn, môi trường trong nghề nuôi tôm (An assessment of the linkages between trade liberalization, rural poverty, and environment in shrimp aquaculture in Ca Mau Province, Vietnam. Project abstract)Google Scholar
  9. Nguyen PQ (2004) Thị trường lúa gạo Nam kỳ (1860  –1945) (The Rice market of the south of Vietnam 1860–1945). Ho Chi Minh City Publishers, Ho Chi Minh CityGoogle Scholar
  10. Nguyen TP, Truong HM, Nguyen AT (2004) Tổng quan về các mô hình nuôi tôm sú ở Đồng bằng sông Cửu Long (An overview on farming types of Black tiger shrimp in the Mekong delta). Paper presented at the conference “The development of aquatic resources in the coastal areas”, Ho Chi Minh City, 4 Aug 2004Google Scholar
  11. Nhandan online (2008) Nông dân Cà Mau làm gì để giảm vay nợ? (What do the Ca Mau farmers do to alleviate debts). =134650 & sub=55&top =38. 10 Nov 2008
  12. Tran TB (1994) Sustainability of rice-shrimp farming system in a Brackish water area in the Mekong delta in Vietnam. Master of Science thesis, University of Western Sydney, HawkesburyGoogle Scholar
  13. Vietnam Economic News (2008) The Mekong delta: a big exporter. The Mekong Delta Rising with the WTO. (Website of The Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation)
  14. Vuong DQT, Lin CK (2001) Rice-Shrimp Farming in the Seawater Intrusion Zones of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. ITCZM Monograph No. 6Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Social Sciences and HumanitiesHo Chi Minh CityVietnam
  2. 2.National University – Ho Chi Minh CityHo Chi Minh CityVietnam

Personalised recommendations