It is over a month since heavy rains resulted in the worst flooding Vietnam had experienced in 20 years. In the central provinces of Nghe An, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Ha Tinh, homes and farms were inundated during October. Over 140 people died and more than a quarter of a million houses were submerged. Thousands of families had to be evacuated and while most have now returned to their homes, many have lost crops and essential farming supplies. Lien Le Thi, a farmer in the village of Ton Le in the Ha Tinh Province echoed the desperation of many, saying “I lost everything, including my livestock and seeds. What am I supposed to do now?”
Over half a million people are believed to have been affected by the floods and the government has been distributing quantities of rice to the area and offering some financial handouts. But aid organisations working in the region are worried about the long term impact on many impoverished agricultural workers. In the Ha Tinh region for example, rural families are used to some flooding and store grain in their attics. But this year, the flood waters were so high, food stocks were washed away. In many cases, tools and other equipment were also damaged or destroyed, hampering farmers’ efforts to start the next planting. And with the loss of the autumn crops, the spring harvest will be vital.
The next rice crop will not be ready for harvesting until May, which means families are likely to face food shortages for another six months. And to ensure the rural communities get back on their feet, farmers will need supplies of seeds and fertiliser. The winter to spring growing season is the most vital of the three crop growing periods, producing around 70 per cent of a farmer’s total output for the year. But unless farmers have the necessary supplies and tools for growing rice, maize, sweet potatoes, beans and peanuts, the local economy will be undermined. Nationally, the country is also suffering as a result of the floods. Food prices increased 16 per cent in October, compared to the same period last year. And with rising inflation and a large trade deficit, economists are warning that pressure on the currency could cause prices to rise even higher.
One aid worker coordinating ActionAid’s emergency response in central Vietnam believes the worst-affected communities will struggle over the coming year to return their lives to normal. And a coordinator with Oxfam predicted some farmers would not recover the losses in their livelihood for perhaps “five years” or more.