This article presents research about the influences of social and cultural norms on the adoption of agroforestry in the northwest mountainous region of Viet Nam. The farming systems practiced by various ethnic groups in the northwest mainly occur on sloping land, which extends over 70% of the land area in the region. Decades of intensive monoculture of annual crops has resulted in severe soil erosion, contributing to soil degradation and decline in crop yields. Integrating agroforestry practices on sloping land has the potential to halt and reverse soil degradation and improve local livelihoods, but its adoption is conditioned by the diverse social and cultural norms of different ethnic groups. This research applies knowledge-based system methods in order to understand local opportunities, preferences, and constraints influencing the adoption of agroforestry practices, using a purposive, gender-balanced sample of sixty farmers from six villages across three provinces in the northwest region comprising people from Kinh, Thai and H’mong ethnic groups. Our results show that although farmers from all groups are aware of the economic and ecological benefits of trees for soil conservation in general, they have different perceptions about the benefits of particular agroforestry practices. Behavioural norms controlling agroforestry adoption vary amongst ethnic groups, and farmers’ individual social and cultural preferences influence their aspirations and adoption decisions. We conclude that developing appropriate agricultural interventions in a culturally rich environment such as northwest Viet Nam requires understanding of the context-specific needs and interests of socially and culturally disaggregated populations. Policies supporting agroforestry are more likely to contribute to more sustainable livelihoods and ecological benefits where they are tailored to the requirements of different ethnic groups.
Nguyen M P,Pagella T, Catacutan D, Nguyen Q T, Sinclair F L