Livestock Research for Rural Development 8 (2) 1996

Citation of this paper

Participatory Rural Development: "Experiences in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc Villages in Central Vietnam"

Lylian Rodríguez J(1), Thomas R Preston(2) and Frands Dolberg(3)

(1) Fundación Centro Para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria (CIPAV), AA20591 Cali, Colombia (E-mail:
(2) Finca Ecologica, University of Agriculture and Forestry, HoChi Minh City, Vietnam (E-mail:
(3) Institute of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark (E-mail:

University of Agriculture and Forestry, Hue, Vietnam


In the past, especially in developing countries, research has been done mostly in experiment stations or universities but the results have rarely been of benefit to the small scale farmer and often were detrimental in terms of impact on the environment. A more appropriate approach is to focus the research on the reality facing the small scale farmer and complement this with supporting problem-based experimentation in the experiment station and university.

This study was carried out in two villages in a rain-fed hilly region in Central Vietnam within a broad conceptual framework of sustainable development. The original idea of evaluating an intervention based on restricted milking of the local cattle was abandoned in the light of the insistence of the farmers that the expected benefits were too long term and they had other more immediate priorities.

In contrast, discussions about the potential benefits from introducing low-cost biodigester technology were enthusiastically received, especially by the women. Over fifty biodigesters were installed in Xuan Loc and Binh Dien villages and around Hue city. Officials both of the People's Committee and the Women's Union took an active part in the programme and became "trainers" of other farmers, as well as "maintenance technicians", offering help to neighbours who had problems with their biodigesters. An evaluation of the impact of the intervention was made by the women farmers who had participated together with officials of local aid agencies. The result was a frank discussion of the problems and of the mistakes but with a final endorsement of the advantages of the technology.

The traditional diet for pigs in the region are lacking in protein. Conventional protein supplements are only available in the market at a distance in Hue city and are expensive. Biodigesters produce nitrogen-rich effluent and are a logical source of the required nutrients for growing duck weed as a local source of protein. Thus there was a potential connection between the biodigesters (being installed primarily as a source of fuel) and the need to improve the diet of the pigs.

As a result of the project activities, and based on farmers' wishes, research to document the local pig breeds became a priority. A survey was done to obtain baseline data and a project was started at the end of August with 10 families, who were to receive one local (Mong Cai) gilt per family.

In retrospect, as the process of research unfolded, it reflected the participatory learning approach which is increasingly recognised as being a basic requirement for promotion of sustainable agricultural practices.

Key words: Vietnam, women, on-farm research, low cost plastic biodigester, extension, effluent, duckweed, lemna, integration, ponds, nitrogen, protein, indigenous breeds, Mong Cai.


In the past, especially in developing countries, research has been done mostly in experimental stations or universities but the results have rarely been of benefit to the small scale farmer and often were detrimental in terms of impact on the environment. A more appropriate approach is to focus the research on the reality facing the small scale farmer and complement this with supporting problem-based experimentation in the experimental station and university.

Another problem is that excessive centralization and inflexible management tend to suffocate new initiatives. The reward systems for researchers are usually based on scientific publications which often discourages them from working in the field, where research is less controllable and the topics may be seen as less scientific. The analysis by Gupta and colleagues (1989) shows how this translates into a repeated focus on "modern" methods of farming and widespread ignorance of alternative resource-conserving technologies and practices.

On-farm research has many advantages. Farmers have always experimented to produce locally-adapted technologies, practices, crops and livestock (Chambers et al 1989; Brouwers 1993; Scoones and Thompson 1994). They are continuous adaptors of technology and their systems are rarely static from year to year. Richards (1989, 1992) has linked this process of adaptation to a performance, in which the actors change the nature of the performance according to the specific conditions. The problem is that many scientists commonly do not understand, or even accept, that farmers can be "researchers". They assume that farmers are conservative and bound by tradition. Static and unchanging practices can therefore, upon investigation at a particular time, be characterized, analysed and so developed. But such an analysis can give nothing better than a snapshot of a complex and changing reality. It is important therefore, to begin to see technologies in a different light, not as fixed prescriptions but as indicators of what can be achieved. What agriculture needs is a willingness among professionals to learn from farmers Pretty (1995).

The "Farmers first and last model (FFL)" is an alternative to the transfer-of-technology model (TOT), and is based on farmers' perceptions and priorities rather than on the scientist's professional preferences, criteria and priorities. The starting point is that scientists learn from and understand the resources, needs and problems of the resource-poor farmers; and that research stations and laboratories play a referral and consultancy role. This model is characterized by the use of informal survey methods, research and development within the farms and with the farmers and the final evaluation criteria is that a technology is adopted (Chambers and Ghildyal 1985).

Compared to a conventional experiment station approach to research, a farming systems research (FSR) approach is more comprehensive. It makes demands on skills beyond the capacity of the individual scientist and a team of scientists has to be formed, representing different disciplines (Dolberg 1990). For instance, in this project the authors come from different backgrounds and have tried to learn and understand from social sciences by doing explorative research in the villages.

Materials and Methods

The Research Site


The research was conducted from February to December 1995 in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam located in the Asia-Pacific region. Vietnam has an area of 329,560 km² and its population is over 70 million people. The criteria to select the villages were:

* Binh Dien village has been involved since 1990 with a SIDA-SAREC research project so there was a mutual interest to carry out the work there. In addition the authors, as part of a post graduate training exercise, were involved in an evaluation visit in 1994 and had helped to install two biodigesters which created interest among the local people in this new technology.

* Xuan Loc village was selected despite it being a relatively new work area but the Agriculture University of Hue was conducting a research project there funded by IDRC, Canada.

Binh Dien Village

Binh Dien village is in the uplands in Huong Tra District in Thua Thien Hue Province in the central area of Vietnam. It is located 35 km to the south-west of Hue city.


Xuan Loc Village

Xuan Loc village is located in the uplands in Phu Loc District in Thua Thien Hue Province, to the south-west of Hue City (45 km distant).

Organizational System

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is divided into 53 provinces. These are divided into Districts, the Districts into Villages or Communes and these are divided into Hamlets or Groups.

The villages have a strong organizational system. The main person in the village is the chairman of the People's Committee. A large number of organizations are involved in the People's Committee, such as the Communist party, the Police, a village military commander, Veteran's Union, Farmer's Union, Women's Union, Youth Union, Finance group, Land office, Tax office and members from the Communication and Cultural office.

General characteristics


Table 1 shows the general characteristics in Xuan Loc and Binh Dien villages.

Table 1:. General characteristics of Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc
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Population 2,957 1,990
Households 557 364
Members/family 5.3 5.46
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Source: Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, 1995


Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages were established after the liberation and reunification of Vietnam (1975) and the people come from different areas and different backgrounds. In Xuan Loc there are people from different ethnic groups. More than 77 % of the population belong to the lowland "Kinh group" that come from the coastal plain areas of Phu Loc District; 23 % belong to the "Van Kieu group", whose origin is Quang Tri Province where the main means of livelihood is shifting cultivation (Le Duc Ngoan et al 1995).

Land Distribution

Land distribution is shown in Table 2 and the distribution of cultivated land is shown in Table 3.

Table 2. Land distribution
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc
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Total area, ha 2,498 4,236
-Forest, ha 1,796 2,739
-Grassland, ha 300 1,231
-Agricultural land, ha 402 266
*Cultivated area, ha 127 140
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Source: Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, 1995


In Binh Dien and Xuan Loc the forest is divided into natural forest and planted forest. In the case of Xuan Loc village about 45% of the land is occupied by natural forest (tropical rain forest) but day by day it has been reduced as a result of human activities such as extraction of firewood, timber wood, rattan, grass, etc. Furthermore, there is a tobacco planting practice whereby forest is cleared every year for tobacco planting.

Animal population

The animal population in 1995 is shown in Table 4.

Climatic conditions

Table 3: Cultivated land distribution
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc
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Cultivated area, ha 168 140
Sugar cane 25 0
Rice 7.5 50
Cassava 41 75
Sweet potato 40.5 15
Vegetables, groundnuts 13 nd
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Source: Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, 1995; nd: No data


Both villages have the typical climatic conditions of the zone between the coastal plain area of central Vietnam and the Truong Son high mountain range. The data shown in Table 5 are from the nearest meteorological stations. In Figures 1 and 2 are shown the rainfall and temperature distribution in 1994.

It is possible to distinguish two seasons: the dry and the rainy season. The rain is concentrated mainly from September to December. The temperature falls in these months. Storms and floods are frequent in this period, which make the climatic conditions even more complex.

Water Resources

Drinking water is mainly from wells but also from the rivers, streams and springs. In Xuan Loc village about 10% of the households have deep wells.


In Binh Dien village there are a few farmers (< 30) that have access to electric power from a hydroelectric scheme but it is only during some time of the day and in the rainy season. In the rest of the year there is no power. In Xuan Loc village there is no electrical power. In both villages there is widespread use of motor car batteries for lighting and to run a radio and in a few cases a TV.


Table 4: Animal population 1995
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc
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Pigs 1,200 1,056
Cattle 800 1,281
Buffalo 49 81
Goats 10 0
Chickens 3,892 5,130
Ducks 450 nd
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Source: Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, 1995; nd: no data


In Binh Dien village there are 3 schools: a secondary school with 275 pupils, a primary school with 400 and a kindergarten with 175 pupils. In Xuan Loc there is only one elementary school (grades 1-5) and the nearest secondary school is 15 km from the centre of the village.

Health service

In Binh Dien there is a health centre (2 doctors, 2 nurses and 2 assistants) and a small hospital. In Xuan Loc there is only one small health centre.

As can be seen, Binh Dien must be characterised as the better endowed village with regard to modern institutions and facilities.


Table 5: Climatic conditions
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc
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Altitude, masl 30 50
Temperature, °C 13-29 20-28.7
Relative humidity, % 80-85 78-92
Rainfall, mm/year 2,021 2,681
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Source: Forecast Station Service - Thua Thien Hue Province, 1995


The overall objective of the research was to devise ways of making better use of the local resources. As it has been argued (Pretty 1995b) that the dominant positivist research paradigm has strong limitations when research is conducted in an open system like the on-farm situation, it was an important objective in terms of research strategy to test the farmer first and last model "FFL" (Chambers and Ghildyal 1985) and the participatory learning model (Pretty 1995) as applied to livestock research. The researchers' immediate objectives were:

* To understand the system of production in the selected hamlets and the role of the cattle in this system.

* To study the possibility to establish a milk production programme to develop the "multi-purpose" (Preston and Leng 1987) use of the local cattle.


The methods used were:

* The use of secondary information.

* Participatory work with the community.

* Feedback workshops with the farmers and the leaders of the community.

* As a result of the participatory work with the community to carry out on-farm research through appropriate interventions in accordance with each situation.

* To select a group of farmers to conduct the research in accordance with the community decision.

Results and Discussion

Action Programme

The field work started at the end of February 1995 but exploratory visits were made to both villages in 1994. Binh Dien was visited in August 1994 and Xuan Loc in November 1994 to introduce the researcher and to discuss possible ideas to develop in the future work. The initial idea was to understand the role of the local cattle in the system of production and the possibilities for initiation of a milk production programme. The first discussions with the members of the People's Committee and the Women's Union indicated there was interest in the development of new ideas.

Participatory work with the community such as visits, field work, workshops, informal meetings, and interviews were used during this study in order to obtain the confidence of the authorities and farmers and to exchange ideas and to develop the project. An interpreter was used most of the time because of the differences in language.

There was good support from the People's Committee and the Women's Union organizations in both villages but definitely it was stronger in Binh Dien village. Some farmer leaders participated actively in the process and worked with the project to monitor and follow up the introduction of the new technologies.

Visits were made to the farmers who raise cattle and also farmers involved in a project in the use of ensiled cassava for fattening pigs (Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996). After discussions with the village leaders it was agreed, as the first step, to set up biodigesters in the households of those farmers participating in the pig project as a contribution for their participation in the project and as pilot demonstration plants in each village.

The results are shown separately for each village because the procedure and development of the project was quite different in both villages.

Xuan Loc Village

Biogas Digesters

During the first visit the possibility was discussed to build a small house for the project-researcher and the people's committee agreed. The University was given the responsibility for developing the idea with the community and to look for the cheapest and simplest way to build it. There were many aspects to take into account in order to take the decision of building the house in the village such as:

* there was an amount of money available for the lodging of the student

* the advantage of living and working in the village

* the most important the possibility to develop a small scale integrated farm and start with the biodigesters

Despite the fact that the community wanted to choose a different place, the house was built taking into account other aspects less important for the researcher and the project, but these were reasons that were outside the project control. At least one of the objectives was met, namely the demonstration of the potential for recycling manure. The biodigester was built the same day that the researcher took up residence and was functioning before the house was finally completed.

It was the biodigester that served as the real initiation of the technical/biological part of the project, since as soon as it began to function it became the centre of interest for the women in the village. Many people visited the house to see the biodigester to learn about it and for curiosity as well.

As mentioned early, there was another project in the village on the use of ensiled cassava root to feed pigs (Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996). This project involved 12 families and credit was supplied from the project to buy 4 pigs and protein supplements for each family. In view of the interest in the biodigester technology, it was decided to install demonstration units in each of these households as a starting point to encourage participation by the community in project activities. The advantage of the low cost biodigester technology (Bui Xuan An et al 1996) is that the simplicity of the system facilitates maximum participation in the installation process - an ideal way of "learning by doing".

Table 6: General information of families involved in Xuan Loc biodigesters project
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Average SE
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Family size 5.6 ±0.6
No. children 3.1 ±0.6
Biodigester length, m 10.0 ±0.0
Total volume, m3 5.4 ±0.0
Distance digester-kitchen, m 9.0 ±1.2
No. burners 2 ±0
No. animals
- Sows 0.7 ±0.2
- Piglets 1 ±0.7
- Fattening Pigs 5.1 ±0.7
- Cattle 10.4 ±2.5
- Buffaloes 0.7 ±0.5
Firewood for people/day, kg 5.1 ±0.5
Firewood for pigs/day, kg 7.6 ±0.8
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Thus the next step in project activities was the installation of biodigesters in ten households in the village. In the process of installation of the biodigesters, and the compilation of general data about the families (Table 6), there were opportunities to discuss with the families their ideas about the establishment of the milking programme with the local cattle.

The data summarized in Table 6 were collected before the start of the project. It can be seen that firewood is used not only for people. The feeds for pigs are traditionally cooked daily and it takes even more firewood than for satisfying the needs of the family. From the data it can be estimated that at least 1,000 tonnes of firewood are used annually to cook the feed for the pigs and that 678 tonnes of firewood are used to cook for the 364 households in Xuan Loc village. One kg of firewood on average is worth from VND 200 to VND 300 (1US$=11,000VND) which means that without the forest the villagers would have to spend between VND 340 to 500 millions annually (US$34 000 to 50 000) to buy fuel. In other words, this is what the forest provides them free of cost today.

Establishment of a milk program with the local cattle

In addition to the general reaction to the idea of milk production, gained during the installation of the biodigesters , visits were made to several farmers who kept cattle as their major activity. The aim was to understand the system of cattle production in the village.

The local breed is almost 100% "Chinese yellow" (Bos taurus) characterised by small body size (adult body weight of 180-200 kg), and light bone structure. As part of a genetic improvement programme, the Vietnamese government is promoting crossbreeding by supplying Red Sindhi semen to be used on local animals. Several of the richer families had purchased animals of this same cross (Yellow cattle x Red Sindhi).

Table 7: Cattle population according to wealth categories
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Poorest Poor Better-off
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No. households 222 109 33
Households having cattle or buffaloes (%)


No. of cattle/buffalo per households


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Source: Le Duc Ngoan et al, 1995


Almost all the families in the village own some cattle (see Table 7) and as expected the richest people raised the largest numbers. The main purpose of raising cattle is for meat, manure for the crops and as a way to save money. Traditionally the management system is based on free grazing in the forest. Mainly it is the children who look after the cattle (when they go to school normally one goes in the morning and one goes in the afternoon) or sometimes a "cowboy" is hired to do this job. Every day the herd is taken to the forest for grazing and during the summer many farmers may keep the herd there for 2 weeks or a month according to the weather. In the rainy season, cattle are grazed near to the house because of the cool weather.

Cows usually have less than one calf/year weighing 7-10 kg at birth. The calves are suckled for 7 to 8 months by which time they may weigh 60 to 80 kg. After two years they can reach 180 kg. Natural mating is widespread in the village, as normally the cattle are kept together and there is no control. Some farmers that want to improve their cattle use artificial insemination (AI) obtaining semen from the station centre in Hue. One of the farmers is trained as an inseminator.

Most farmers have a simple pen where the cattle are kept at night time and during the rainy season. Supplementation is not common. Some farmers feed salt and some offer rice straw during the rainy season, and occasionally some cassava leaves when the harvest time comes, but generally there is no supplementation.

The idea of adding a new "purpose" for the local cattle was discussed. It was explained that to do this entailed some requirements such as: supplementation for the cow and the calf, some changes in the traditional management system "bringing the cow near to the house" and "separating the calf " . Fresh milk is not traditionally consumed in the family. When it is consumed it is in the condensed and sweetened form, usually taken with coffee. Even then, it is mainly reserved for old people, children and those who are ill. Nevertheless, there is "offer and demand" at local level, which means that it would be possible to start a local production programme at some time.

It is important to mention that in Hue there is a project promoting high breeding cows such as Holstein with milk yields up to 15 litres daily, but with very high inputs. Farmers in that project were visited in April 1995 and concern was expressed: "we can't recover the money that we invested in feeds". In fact the same farmers belonging to that project were visited in August 1994 and after 8 months (in April 1995) there were no more farmers involved. The "fresh milk shop" was visited as well where the price of milk was 4,000 VND per litre which manifested that there is a market for fresh milk in Hue. These observations seem to support the assertion that "specialized livestock may produce less than local animals where the available feed resources are of low nutritive value and high energy and high protein concentrates are expensive" (Preston and Murgueitio 1994)..... in that situation.... multipurpose livestock offer advantages over specialized animals where the risks are attached to the production of a single product. This is one of the important reasons why dual purpose, or multipurpose cattle, are so common throughout Latin America (Sere and Vaccaro 1985; Vaccaro 1986). It seems valid to suggest these aspects must be taken into account for future developments.

Other aspects, which will need attention, are those such as marketing and the way to preserve the milk according to the local conditions. Finally, after carefully analysing the situation, the decision was taken not to go ahead.

Another important development arose in the process of installing the first biodigesters as 50% of these were established in Binh Dien village (where the pig-cassava project was based). It became apparent that, in this village, there was more enthusiasm and participation. A second important decision (from the point of view of impact) was to work in both villages - in Binh Dien as well as in Xuan Loc. In fact, because of strong support from village leaders it was decided to concentrate most of the work in Binh Dien village.

The use of effluent from the biogas digesters to produce duckweed as a protein supplement for the traditional diet.


The traditional diet for pigs in the region was found to be lacking in protein (Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996). Conventional protein supplements are only available in the market in Hue and are expensive. Duck weed can contain up to 40% protein in the dry matter when raised on fertilized ponds (Leng et al 1995) and can be grown almost anywhere in the tropics where there is water. Biodigesters produce nitrogen-rich effluent and are a logical source of the required nutrients for growing duck weed as a local source of protein. Thus there was a potential connection (see Figure 3) between the biodigesters (being installed primarily as a source of fuel) and the need to improve the diet of the pigs.

This idea was enthusiastically received by the farmers especially the women. And so, in Xuan Loc, 10 families were selected through the Women's Union to join in this "pig" project which in turn was linked with the biodigester project. Funds were given to the Women's Union to develop a credit system for those ten farmers in order to buy the material to make the biodigester and to buy the pigs and to improve (or prepare) the pond to grow the duck weed. Later the money was to be repaid to the Women's Union to establish a revolving fund to give an opportunity for more women farmers to participate in these activities.

There was no experience in the village in the growing of aquatic plants. But several farmers learned quickly how to grow them, and to keep them in good condition (fertilized with biodigester effluent), and that the duck weed plants could be used as a high quality protein supplement not only for pigs, but also for ducks and chickens. The farmers appreciated that to introduce such a new technology implied a " learning process' which would take time and would not necessarily be suitable for everyone". Experiences in Colombia (Espinel 1994) showed that in such a process some farmer "leaders" will continue with the idea even after the project finishes and that others will realize the importance of the idea and eventually follow the example of the "leaders".


It became apparent during the development of the "duck weed" project that there were many factors which influenced duck weed production - some controllable and others determined by climatic conditions (flooding!!). Management was found to be the most important factor the levels of effluent to be used, water exchange and the need to renew the seed. Very little was known on the use of the biodigester effluent to produce duck weed, so this aspect was a logical subject for "on-station" research (Rodriguez et al 1996a). Some of the results on the yield of duck weed at farmer level are shown in Figure 4.

The role of leaders and local organizations in "on-farm research" and technology transfer

Close collaboration, confidence and "clarity" between researchers, advisors and local leaders, institutions and organizations are fundamental requirements for successful "on-farm research and technology adaptation". There are many factors affecting the process specially when an "outsider" comes to the village with some ideas but little understanding of the real situation or, even more important, when there are cultural and language differences between the "outsider" and the target group. In Vietnam, where "local" organization is very developed, leaders and organizations such as the Women's Union's can move masses and thus activate the process. Equally they can "stop it" and then there is no impact. There are many internal (in the village) factors affecting the role of these institutions such as for instance lack of communication among organizations, competition for power, self interest and created interests - all of which can make the situation even more complex and will affect the work environment.

Binh Dien Village

Biogas Digesters

Table 8:. General information about the families involved in Binh Dien biodigester project
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Average SE
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Family size 4.9 ±0.33
No. Children 2.7 ±0.34
Biogasdigester length, m 9.7 ±0.28
Liquid volume, m3 5.63 ±0.16
Distance (Digester-Kitchen), m 9.8 ±1.06
No. Burners 2 ±0
No. Animals
- Sows 0.1 ±0.094
- Piglets 0 ±0
- Fattening Pigs 3.5 ±0.62
- Cattle 3 ±2.64
- Buffalos 0.1 ±0.094
Firewood, kg/day 7.1 ±1.23
Firewood for pigs, kg/day 8.3 ±1.24
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The biodigester project in Binh Dien was the same as in Xuan Loc. It was a component of the project on the use of ensiled cassava to feed pigs (Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996). There were 12 families and credit was supplied from the project through the Women's Union to buy 4 pigs and protein supplements for each family. The materials for the biodigesters were donated as it was considered they would be used as a demonstration of this new technology. It was also a way of compensating the farmers for taking on the role of "researchers", doing the extra work in keeping records, controlling the feeds and generally carrying out many of the functions which in the research station would be done by professional technicians. Throughout the process, emphasis was on "participation" that can be interpreted, according to Pretty (1995), as "interactive participation"-- in installation of biodigesters, evaluating the results, providing feedback, discussing adjustments to the technologies and, always, "learning by doing". Data on the families in the Binh Dien component of the project are in Table 8.

In Binh Dien village there was a very strong participation by the Women's Union, the leaders of the People's Committee and some farmers who, from the beginning, made the process more dynamic and by their enthusiasm facilitated the feedback between the target group and the project, thus enriching the work in this village.

Establishment of a milk programme with the local cattle

Visits were made to several farms to survey the system of cattle production in the village. The cattle population is shown in Table 9. Distribution was less equitable than in Xuan Loc. Cattle numbers increased much more rapidly among the wealthier families.

Table 9: Cattle population according to wealth categories in Binh Dien village
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Poor Medium Better-off
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1990 1994 1990 1994 1990 1994
No. of households 225 237 60 165 15 55
Households with cattle,% 0 3 40 30 60 55
No. of cattle 0 40 30 360 70 300
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Source: Binh Dien Village, 1995


The management was the same as in Xuan Loc but in this case there were some farmers interested to try to start the project. Workshops were held to discuss with the farmers and leaders possible ways to begin the project. The proposal was to use a supplement of rice straw treated with urea (that has been shown as successful technology in China and Bangladesh, Dolberg et al 1995) with some tree leaves (eg: from the Jack fruit tree) for cow and calf and some additional rice bran for the cow. A group of farmers that had 1 or 2 cows recently calved agreed to build a simple place to milk the cow and a pen to keep the calf away from the cow. Several farmers milked the cows but the yield was too low -- only 50 to 100 ml in the first days. Discussions were held with the Women's Union and farmers and many factors were analysed. Finally there was a meeting to decide the following step and the farmers gave the following reasons for stopping the project:

* It was a very new technology for them

* There is no tradition to milk the cows

* The traditional management is so easy and when we milk the cows it makes the management complicated especially working with only one or two cows from the herd,

* Marketing is still a big constraint.

* The production of local cows appears to be very low

* There are other priorities that can generate quicker results and have more beneficial effect on the family

* In the future it could be a good idea to be developed but maybe it is not the right time


And also discussions about How did they want to work and invest their efforts? and the following points were made:

* Pig production is a very important source of income in the family

* There are many problems to buy the weaner piglets for fattening and also, if they are available, they can bring many problems/diseases to the village, so breeding sows could be a good project because we only have around 20 sows in the village.

* The local "Mong Cai" is the right breed to use because it has a very good reproduction, produces many piglets and is well accustomed to use local resources such as "green plants".

* The Mong Cai sows can be crossed with "white" (improved) boars to produce crossbred pigs for fattening.


Research to document production traits of the local breeds became a priority. A survey was done to get some baseline data and a project was started at the end of August with 10 families, who were to receive one Mong Cai gilt per family. It took the Women's Union a long time to buy the right breed because it is becoming more difficult to find "pure" or at least a "high grade" gilt of the Mong Cai breed. The last family to get a gilt received it in November 1995. The Women's Union agreed to be responsible for supervising the follow up of the project and to collect the data on the reproductive performance of the Mong Cai sows. The farmers will repay the credit and the Women's Union will manage it as a revolving fund to get more farmers involved in this project.

The use of effluent from the biogas digesters to produce duck weed as protein supplement for the traditional diet

The comments made under this heading in the Xuan Loc project are equally applicable to Binh Dien, and will not be repeated here.

The role of leaders and organizations in "on farm research" and technology transfer

The chairman of the village, the leaders of the People's Committee and the Women's Union especially, were actively involved in the development of the project, in providing new ideas, adopting and adapting the technologies, questioning the researcher's ideas and were concerned for the continuity of the project and not only for their own development but also for the development of surrounding villages. This experience confirms how important is the close collaboration, confidence and "clarity" between researchers, advisers and local leaders, institutions and organizations.

Introduction of new ideas to farmers outside the project and other villages

In Binh Dien village, where the process was more active, the Women's Union took the initiative to introduce the biodigesters, duck weed and cassava ensilage to other villages, so there was a meeting with more than 60 women from the 15 villages belonging to Huong Tra District where women leaders from Binh Dien Village, the researchers (Nguyen Thi Loc and Lylian Rodriguez), one of the advisers (T R Preston) and the principal researcher in the biodigester project in Vietnam (Bui Xuan An) came together to share the experiences during the process of establishing the project in Binh Dien village and other places in Vietnam.

Low cost plastic biogasdigester in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages


Energy is a fundamental factor for economic development, but normally the energetic models are based on "non-renewable resources". There are many kinds of energy such as:

* Hydraulic energy

* Wind energy

* Solar radiation

* Biomass (through pyrolisis and gasification)


During the course of this century the world energy consumption /inhabitant has grown 16 times. Today the industrial countries with 32% of the world population consume 82% of the planet's energy. On average, a person from an industrialized country consumes 20 times more energy than a person in Africa. It is clear that the "economic development model" is what drives energy consumption.

In many developing countries there is a serious shortage of fuel and the energy crisis is a daily reality for most families. Cooking is one of the most energy-consuming activities, yet is often inefficient. The open fire is still very common. Today the devastation of forest in developing countries is frequently mentioned in mass media. The forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America are disappearing with serious consequences. Deforestation has many causes. Poor people are migrating and inhabiting, cultivating and using new forest areas. In some areas they use "slash and burn" methods and this is another factor rapidly depleting the forest areas. War has been another important cause of deforestation. However, the daily consumption of fuel (Tables 6 and 8) must not be underestimated when considering causes of deforestation. It is not unusual for a family to have to spend the greater part of their day gathering fuel for their home. At times dozens of kilometres need to be covered to find fuel (Nystrom 1988)

In Vietnam, deforestation is a problem. In the International Herald Tribune on May 30 , 1985, a study carried out by the World Resources Institute is discussed. It said that the country is threatened by extensive deforestation: "Today less than 23 % of the country is covered by forest, down from 44% in 1943 ".

Facing this situation the use of renewable energy sources like solar energy for lighting and low cost plastic biodigesters to give an efficient use of the manure in the farming system to produce gas for cooking and effluent to fertilize ponds for fish, aquatic plants and crops will bring advantages to the family and to the environment.

Low cost biodigesters in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages

The objectives of the biodigester programmes in developing countries should be to establish minimum cost systems, using only local materials and with a simple technology so that farmers themselves can readily learn to install and manage the biodigesters (see Figure 5). To this end it was decided to use a continuous-flow flexible tube biodigester based on the "Taiwan" model as described by Pound et al (1981) and later simplified by Preston and co-workers first in Ethiopia (Preston 1985, unpublished data), in Colombia (Botero and Preston 1986) and later in Viet Nam (Bui Xuan An et al 1993).

In Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, more than 50 biogas digesters were installed as part of the project activities, with an average cost (for materials) of US$29.00, including two burners (see Table 10).


Table 10. Cost of a Plastic Biogas Digester in Hue-Vietnam
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VND/Unit Units/digester Total
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Plastic/transport HCMC-Hue 208000 1 208000
Transp Hue-Xuan Loc/Binh Dien 13500 1 13500
Ceramic Pipes (100 mm id) 11000 2 22000
PVC Elbows (21 mm id)) 800 3 2400
PVC Pipe (21 mm id) 2000 3 6000
PVC Union (Male/female)(21mm id) 1600 1 1600
PVC "T" ( 21 mm id) 900 3 2700
PVC Union (21mm id) 500 1 500
Hose pipe (21 mm id) 1640 10 16400
GI pipe (21 mm id) 1800 8 14400
Ball tap (21 mm) 12000 2 24000
GI elbow ( 21 mm id) 1500 1 1500
PVC Glue 6000 0.1 600
Car inner tubes (worn) 15000 0.5 7500
$VND 321100*
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Gas production was measured using a Japanese gas flow metre (Model number: K875-/YAZAKI KEIKI Company) which was installed on a rotational basis in the households of 16 families. The results are shown in Figure 6. The inputs (manure and water) and outputs (effluent) were recorded (see Table 11). The data showed a significative difference (P=0.001) in the proportion of water/manure used to load the biodigester between the two villages.


In fact the difference is in the amount of manure used to load the biodigester, but not in the amount of water and it is because the availability of cow manure is higher in Xuan Loc than in Binh Dien village. The difference in gas production per kg of DM can be attributed to the fact that in Binh Dien farmers use mainly pig manure and there can be a relation with the use of latrines linked with the biodigester that were in place when the gas production was measured in Binh Dien village, but there are not enough data to conclude in this aspect. Further research is needed. However, according to the literature the data are reliable because the gas production per kg of DM could be around 150 litres (Bui Xuan An et al 1996).

Table 11. Input & Output data for plastic tube biodigesters in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages
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Binh Dien Xuan Loc SE/P
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Gas, litres/m3 liquid vol 91.9 138 ±25/0.238
Manure, kg/day 8.8 22.5 ±2.15/0.002
Water, kg/day 76.8 65.2 ±6/0.197
Water/Manure 9.3 3.08 ±0.45/0.000
Gas, litres/kg DM 248 153 ±32.5/0.085
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Analyses of N content, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and colonies of E. coli were made for the material loaded and effluent in 20 biodigesters. The results are shown in Table 12 and the effect in the reduction of COD and E.coli is clear. McGarry and Stainforth (1978) showed that by recycling human and animal wastes in biodigesters at internal temperature of 30-35 ºC, it is possible to destroy up to 95% of the eggs of parasites and almost all the bacteria and protozoa that cause gastrointestinal diseases.

For N content the data are not reliable, because it would be expected that the content of N in the DM of the effluent is higher than in the input manure. It is important to mention this point because it highlights the difficulties of obtaining reliable data when the samples are just sent to a laboratory to be analysed and it shows the need for the researcher to do her/his own analysis.


Table 12. Material loaded and effluent composition
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Mat Loaded Effluent SE/P
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N, % in DM 2.85 2.49 ±0.45/0.6
COD, mg/kg 29,291 7,906 ±2,108/0.001
E. Coli, Colonies/g 261 x 105 1.5 x 105 ±38x105/0.001
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The biodigester plant includes a simple stove made with galvanized pipe of 21 mm internal diameter. It has 2 burners made with the same sort of pipe and 2 ball tab with the same diameter. It seems to work quite well but it can be improved. Measurements were taken fitting the gas metre between the storage bag and the stove and the results were on average that in 1 hour it is possible to boil 6 litres of water (4 times x 1.5 litres) and the amount of gas used is 26 litres/litre of water, in other words 156 litres/hour which agrees with the literature (150 litres of gas per hour (CVC et al 1987; Botero and Preston 1986). The farmers developed many ideas to avoid the effects of wind and to have a more convenient place to put the pans. Each farmer had different ideas and those that improved the stoves said that they were much better. In fact a lot of research has been done about improved stoves for firewood, charcoal and others sorts of fuel, but only a little in stoves for low cost plastic biodigesters. In India a study was carried out among user populations and it was found that fuel saving range is from 32 to 42% using the improved stoves (Ramachandra 1994).

Latrines linked with the biodigester

The leader of the Women's Union from Binh Dien village visited the project in Xuan Loc where the project house was built and immediately appreciated the significance of having a toilet connected with the biodigester system. She returned to Binh Dien convinced of the advantages of developing the idea in her own village. A credit system was therefore organized through the Women's Union to establish toilets as components of the biodigesters in families already participating in the biodigester project.

Future follow up!

Over 50 biogas digesters were installed during the project of which 20 were donated for the project (10 per village) to farmers involved in Nguyen Thi Loc's project and the 30 left were financed through a credit system from the Women's Union. All the money used for the project was given to the Women's Union and they developed a credit system to work with the farmers with the idea to use the money in a revolving research fund (Solarte et al 1994) thereby giving the opportunity to more farmers to participate in such projects in the future.

During the project activities there was concern on both sides (outsiders and villagers) about the follow up of the technology after the project ended. Therefore, the Women's Union developed a proposal (see Annex 1) and presented it to Canadian Embassy. The objective of the proposal was to secure development funds to ensure an extension of project activities, so that monitoring would continue of the biodigesters already installed and to facilitate the introduction of the technology in neighbouring villages. Visits by staff members of the Canadian Embassy were made to the village and the proposal was approved at the beginning of December 1995.

In fact there are many technical and non-technical aspects that must be included in the "follow up" of the project such as:

* Technical aspects: proportion of water and manure to be loaded

* Proportion of pig and cattle manure

* Gas production in the dry and the wet season

* Different uses of effluent to water and fertilize trees, crops, fish and to produce water plants as a source of protein

* Installation procedures (to link the pig pen, latrine, biodigester), the wide of the trench for specific kinds of soils

* Effect of linking latrines with the biodigesters

* Management and maintenance: fence, shade or not?

* Duration of the plastic

* Stoves' design


In the introduction of the technology:

* How to introduce the technology to a new area?

* Which aspects to take into account to introduce the technology to a new area?

* Who are the right people to start?

* Technicians attitude

* Credit systems for the poor.

* Is the biodigester suitable for the poorest?

Evaluation of the project in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc Villages

At the end of the project a meeting was held with the village leaders and farmers to evaluate the results of the year's activities. The aim was to identify and discuss the problems and the benefits, and to plan future activities. The outcome of the evaluation is summarized below:

Binh Dien Village

Table 13. Evaluation of the biodigesters in Binh Dien village
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Benefits Problems Future Activities
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- Saving time

- Cleaner kitchen

- Less labour spent for cooking

- Good health for the "cook"

- Saving money for buying and labour for collecting fire wood

- Using effluent for watering duck weed, crops and trees

- Preventing bad smell

- Preventing flies and mosquitos

- Flood damages digesters

- Animals can damage the plastic

- Lack of manure in poor farms

- Cattle dung produce less gas than pig manure

- Antibiotics used to treat pigs reduce the gas production

- Cattle dung can form a hard layer on the top of the liquid in the digester

- Biogas plant must be "well" connected with animal house and the kitchen

- Perfect installation proceedings

- The walls of trench will be more inclined

- Technical follow up!

- The fence always needed

- Do not let the waste into the digester when the animals are sick (applying antibiotics)

- Combination between the farmers' contribution and outsiders' help

- The fence always needed

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Source: Binh Dien village, 1995


The farmers' thinking shows the reality in the village. In Binh Dien many families have to buy firewood because the forest is far from their houses or because there is not enough labour in their families, so the benefit that they can get from the biodigester is very important, but there are also many farmers whose only source of income is from the forest, cutting firewood for their families and selling at village level or in the city. There is a clear understanding of their situation and the comments reflect their observations and they show shown many aspects that need to be improved in a "practical way" and which can be subjects for further research.

A very important aspect in table 13 is the "lack of manure in poor farms". This is where the biodigester can be important, but not as a means to "start" to improve the standard of living because very poor farmers have other priorities and the strategy much be different to improve their conditions. The value of effluent to water the trees or vegetables in the home garden or to produce aquatic plants such as duck weed is appreciated.

At the end of the project 25 biodigesters were visited and 68 % were in good conditions and 32% had problems or were not working. The reasons were: 12 % had problems because of accidents (especially animals that fall into the trench), 8% due to problems at installation, 8 % because of management or lack of manure and 4 % (i.e. one) was destroyed due to flooding.

Table 14. Evaluation of the introduction of duck weed in Binh Dien
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Benefits Problems Future Activities
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- Pigs fed with duck weed grow very fast - Heavy rain lets duck weed "escape", dilutes nutrients in pond

- New for us: "lack of experience"

- Good drainage system

- The pond must be close to the biodigester.

- Continue the project

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Source: Binh Dien village, 1995

In table 14 the farmers' reaction to the introduction of a new plant "duck weed" as source of protein in the village. In fact several farmers having biodigesters, but outside the project started to grow duck weed because they realize the nutritive value for their animals not only for pigs, but ducks and chickens as well. It is important to mention that, traditionally, duck weed is sold at the market in Hue.

In Binh Dien village after the decision to "not go ahead" with the "milk program" there was a project with the indigenous breed "Mong Cai". The farmers, therefore, also discussed some benefits, problems and future activities in that regard (table 15).

Table 15. Evaluation of use of Mong Cai breeding sows
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Benefits Problems Future activities
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- Adapted and grow very well

- Can use crop residues

-Difficult to find - Training on "breeding sows"

- Continue the project

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Source: Binh Dien village, 1995


Xuan Loc Village

The results of the evaluation are shown in table 16.

In Xuan Loc the situation was quite different and there are many factors to be analysed:

* There is plenty of forest and it is one of the main sources of people's sustenance.

* Living conditions are not as good as in Xuan Loc which means that maybe biodigesters are a suitable technology for some part of the population, but for the very poor people a strategy must be developed in order to improve their standard of living before biodigesters have a role to play.

* There was less participation in this village during the project and less enthusiasm from the leaders. Despite the leader of the Women's Union was very active there was no strong support from the People's Committee.

* Climatic conditions are a constraint, because when floods come biodigester can be taken away, in reality only one biodigester was destroyed during the last wet season, but the possibility must be considered when people chose the site to setup the pig pen and biodigester. However, this is a risk not only for the biodigester.


At the end of the project 20 biodigesters were visited and 60 % were in good condition and 40% had problems or were not working, the reasons were: 10 % had problems because of accidents (specially animals that fall down), 10% because they had problems at installation, 15 % because of poor management or lack of manure and 5 % (which means one) were destroyed by the flood.

Table 16. Evaluation of biodigesters in Xuan Loc village
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Benefits Problems Future activities
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- Enough manure, enough gas.

- Better than fire wood for cooking

- Clean kitchen.

- Good for small households.

- Saving labour for fire wood collection.

- Rain decreases gas production.

- When there is not enough gas for cooking we are less efficient!.

- Feeding cattle dung can form hard layer in the top of the liquid in the biodigester

- Flood can break the trench

- The technology has less impact in up land region where fire wood is available.

- Improve gas production

- Protection (fences)

- Installing for small families.

- Maintenance is needed regularly.

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Source: Xuan Loc village, 1995


After the evaluation a workshop was held (Funded by FAO) in both villages to give some practical recommendations about biodigesters, introduce another protein resource for livestock: (a tree - Trichanthera gigantea) that has given good results in Colombia and in the South and North of Vietnam. See Annex 2 for workshop report.

Survey about Mong Cai sow Performance in Binh Dien Village


The population of local breeds of livestock is day by day decreasing due to lack of infrastructure and of economic incentive to encourage access to, and use of, this genetic material for breeding. To date, almost all efforts have been directed towards the introduction of "improved" and "new" breeds with very high genetic quality but with an equal dependence on high inputs and with poor adaptability to "less than ideal" conditions which are the "norm" in rural areas of most developing countries.

In Binh Dien village, pig production plays an important role in the farming system but there is a shortage of piglets which brings many problems for the village because farmers have to buy the piglets in different places. The problems include:

* Disease transmission

* Poor quality (bad health, poor development, infections)

* High price (many middlemen!!)

In the village there are around 20 families that raise sows for breeding, but annually farmers in the village require to fatten upwards of 1000 pigs. It is evident that there is a place to develop a larger population of breeding sows. For this reasons a survey was done in order to understand the traditional management system, the breed used and its performance. Sixteen families were interviewed and the following information was obtained:


In Binh Dien there is a long history of using local breeds for reproduction purposes, principally the Mong Cai or Cornwall ("not local breed", but well adapted because it has been for many years in Vietnam, Molenat et al 1991). Despite this, the Government in 1994 established a policy that: "farmers are not allowed to use the Cornwall breed". The Mong Cai breed is important for breeding but the males have a very low price which makes it difficult for farmers to keep the pure breed as the demand is only for females. Thirteen families had a history of raising Mong Cai sows. Performance parameters are summarized in Table 17.

Table 17. Performance of Mong Cai sows in Binh Dien Village
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Items Average n
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1st mating weight, kg 51.7 16
Live weight gain to 1st mating, kg/day

No. of piglets/litter 11 49
No. of piglets weaned/litter 10 49
Mortality, % 8 48
Weight of piglet weaned, kg 8 47
Lactating days 51 47
Open days 16 46
Farrowing interval, days 181 47
Income/litter, VND 800,000.00 7
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Source: Binh Dien, 1995


In Figure 7 is shown the litter size at birth and weaning for Mong Cai sows in 13 families; in Figure 8 is shown the longevity and prolificacy; in Figure 9 the farrowing interval and open days and in Figure 10 the weaning weight for Mong Cai crosses. Those figures shown a very good picture of the reproductive performance of Mong Cai sows and can be compared with such that can be obtained in a commercial farm with "hight breeds and hight quality feeds", for instance the farrowing interval that is a good measure of the reproductive performance is 181 days and in hight quality breeds can be obtained 175 days (Sarria et al 1994) but in very different conditions. Mortality at the weaning in such systems can be very hight upwards 10% and in these baseline data the figure for mortality is less than 10%.



The management is very simple. Often the pig pen is an open one with enough space to keep the sow and the piglets in a comfortable way. Most farmers use a packed clay-floor. A few have a partially concreted floor and a part packed-clay floor. Some farmers have a fence around the pen, often a "live" fence of cassava or bamboo, so as to restrict the area in which the piglets can scavenge. The emphasis is usually on some form of housing which is cheap and yet comfortable for the sow and her litter.

Feeding System

Farmers use the traditional locally available resources to feed the sows. The results of a survey are in Table 18. They treat the sows as "people" in Vietnam. Sticky rice is used for the celebrations or special occasions and in table 18 is shown how farmers feed some sticky rice, green beans or eggs when the sows have farrowed or some days before, but is important to make clear that the amounts that are fed are very low. For example: 1 egg per 3 days or 100 gm of green beans per day the first week after farrow.


In general, farmers try to provide some protein-rich supplement in order to keep the lactating sow in good condition. However the amount is very limited and in general the feeding system is according to the crop season and the family condition. The interesting point to make is the adaptation and good performance of the Mong Cai sows under relatively poor conditions of nutrition and management.

Some farmers use specific strategies like for instance after the weaning they wait for two heats before mating which gives some time for the sow to recover its body condition.


Breeding System

Artificial insemination is a common practice in this village. Farmers can obtain semen from an Insemination Centre in Hue city and they have learned how to make the insemination. It is a very effective and cheap system. In the village, boars are not available.

In the Department of Agriculture of Thua Thien-Hue, Mr Nguyen Viet Dan (personal communication) explained that the Vietnamese government has the plan to destroy the breeds that have very low production "some of the local breeds". In 1975 Mong Cai pigs were brought fromTam Dao, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong Province in the north, 300 Mong Cai sows for breeding purpose were taken to a statal farm, but in 1980 this farm collapsed and some of the sows were given to the farmers.


There are no statistics about the number of animals in Hue Province but it has still a very low population. Actually the government plan is to keep the Mong Cai for breeding and to cross it with an exotic breed such as Large White for fattening but the problem is availability of semen because in the province there are only 3 "insemination centres" (farms!) that will be describes below:

* Namgia (Hue city): State farm, 7 Large White boars and a young Mong Cai (not yet mature to get semen). 40 doses Large white (VND 6000/dose) per day are distributed to 4 workers in 4 districts (Phu Loc, Thuan An, An Lo and Bao Vinh). The veterinarian or farmer learn how to do the insemination and they do it at village level.

* Nguyen Hau (Quang Phuoc village, Tam Gian Lagoon): It is a farm owned by the Agricultural Department but rented and administered by a farmer from this village. 25 doses are available per day, but there is no Mong Cai Semen. However the farmer raises 3 Mong Cai sows and is planning to have a Mong Cai boar.

* Van Huu Nguyen: It is a private farm whit Yorkshire and 1 Mong Cai boars. There is semen available but according to him almost all Thua Tien Hue province depend on this Mong Cai boar and some other provinces also. The availability of Mong Cai semen is very low: only 2 doses each 3 days and the prices are VND 8,000 per Mong Cai and VND 4,000 per dose of Yorkshire. There is a big demand for Mong Cai in his village and in general in the province and other provinces.


It is evident that there is need to develop simple centres at village level to increase the population of the Mong Cai breed. This local breed has very good reproductive performance and is well adapted to the local conditions and local resources.

Table 18. Feed resources used for breeding pigs in Binh Dien village
Family Growing Sow Pregnant Sow Lactating Sow
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Mr Nguyen Van V. Rice

Rice bran

Cassava meal

Wine by-product

Vegetables (Sweet potato an ipomea leaves)


Rice bran

Cassava meal

Wine by-product

Vegetables (Sweet potato an ipomea leaves)


Rice bran

Cassava meal

Wine by-product

Vegetables (Sweet potato an ipomea leaves)

Mr Tom Rice, Rice bran, Sweet potato leave, Bone flour

Cassava (not often)

After the 4th Month: supplement some fish flour and mineral premix.

Rice, Rice bran, Sweet potato leaves, Bone flour

Cassava (not often)

After the 4th Month: supplement some fish flour and mineral premix.


green beans and fish meal

After 30 days the piglets are fed with rice soup and bone flour

Mr Tue Rice, Rice Bran, Fresh cassava, Vegetables Rice, Rice bran, Fresh cassava, vegetables Supplement: Green beans

Sticky rice, chicken eggs

But only some times

Mr Vo Dat Rice, Rice bran, Wine by-product, Vegetables Rice, Rice bran, Wine by-product, Vegetables Supplement: Green been

Sticked rice, 20 days after the farrow. After they reduce and increase wine by-product

Mr Gan Rice, Rice bran, vegetables

According with the family conditions

Rice, Rice bran, Wine by-product, Vegetables Increase the amount of rice and add sticky rice
Mr Tran Duc Son

Mrs Bui thi Chi

Wine residue, Rice, Vegetables, Salted fish and shrimp heads Wine residue, Rice

Vegetables, Salted fish and shrimp heads

They increase the amount and add some sticky rice.
Mr Ngo Thi Mit

Mrs Luong Tri

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables

Small fish

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables

Small fish

For 10 days green been

Sticky rice

Mr Vy

Mrs Chung

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables

Jack fruit seed, Cassava

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables

Jack fruit seed, Cassava

Supplement: Salted fish

Sticky rice with sugar

Mr Cuong

Mrs Dieu

Rice, Cassava, Vegetables

Some times rice bran

Rice, Cassava, Vegetables

Some times rice bran

Supplement: Green been

Sticky rice

Mrs Thu Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables


Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables


Supplement: Sticky rice

Green bean, Groundnut cake

Fresh fish

Mr tran Van Loi

Mrs Nguyen thi Muc

Rice, Rice Bran, Vegetables 1 week before farrowing

Sticky rice, green beans

Duck eggs

for two weeks

Green beans

Duck eggs

Mrs Do thi Gai

Mr Cao Lo

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables Supplement: Sticky rice

Green been, Salted Fish

Mrs Le Thi Tam

Mr Cao Xuan Cho

Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables Rice, Rice bran, Vegetables Supplement: Sticky rice

Green beans, Groundnut cake

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Source: Binh Dien, 1995


Observations at village level about the efficiency of the Mong Cai breed in the use of local resources were the motivation for carrying out an "on-station experiment" to explore the digestion parameters and N metabolism of Mong Cai and exotic breeds and their crosses (Paper 3).

Factors that interact in "on farm research" and "on station research"

Research on behalf of developing countries has been done ostensibly with the objective "to improve the standard of living of people". Unfortunately, much of the research in the industrial countries is done on how "humans can destroy humans", either directly in development of weapons of war or indirectly through the destruction of local cultures and self reliance through exports of inappropriate technologies.

Research and development activities must be viewed in the perspective of interactions, the most important of which is that between "imported technology" and the local situation. Leng (1995) has shown very clearly how many components interact to influence overall performance of ruminants on a specific diet. In the laboratory, with controlled conditions, one of the characteristics of feeds, such as digestibility, often has the greatest impact on animal productivity, but this is not the case in most field situations.


According to our experience in this project this interaction can be demonstrated in Figure 11 where on farm research or much better the "participatory learning process" (Pretty, 1995b) is the starting point to get a clear understanding of the situation and to define research priorities, but there are many aspects interacting such as and the road ahead is not as straight as that:

* Human factors of the outsiders and the target group: culture, communication and attitude are essential factors that can stop or makes the process work.

* Environmental factors such as rainfall distribution, temperature, storms, floods will affect the results and lead some scientists to decline undertaking "on-farm" research, but they will then miss the reality.

* Technical aspects such as: communication with other scientists working in the same way, facilities to get relevant information/references and more specific aspects such as laboratory facilities that are a constraint in developing countries. Knowledge of there existence may lead the researchers to allocate them a higher priority than they deserve in order to obtain reliable data. But the other side of the coin is, what is the meaning of reliable date produced out of context?

* Economic resources such as access to adequate credit which is also one of the main constraints because it is not available and the knowledge (Hashemi, 1996) about it is very weak in both outsiders and in the target groups, contributing to the complexity of a solution.

* Feed resources (availability, quality, prices)

* Animals (health conditions, breeds, age)

* Water (quality, availability), for instance for biodigesters water is an important resource.

* Soil (type, fertility)


Those aspects are interacting positively or negatively in the process. However, the experiences of the present work lead us to conclude that these issues are best addressed within a framework of FFL and learning approaches, where the research starts in the villages and the station and the laboratories play referral and consultancy roles.

What is the way ahead?

At the beginning of the document data were shown about the animal population in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages, but based on the insights we have now gained it is important to think deeply about some aspects such as the change of the animal population in both villages through time. In figures 12 and 13 data are shown on animal numbers from 1989 till 1994 and it is evident that animal production plays a important role in these two villages. It seems that the cattle numbers are increasing very fast in Xuan Loc village, which through grazing in the forest is at the expense of the environment.


There is not much difference in the development in pig numbers over time, but there are clearly more poultry in Binh Dien, probably reflecting the village easier access to the market, making it easier to sell poultry products.

In Tables 19 and 20 data are shown about the distribution of cattle and pigs according to wealth ranking of the households. There are no date about poultry distribution in the village, but according to our observations poultry is especially important for the poorest people, because poultry need much less capital than pigs and cattle.


The data confirm that cattle are mainly in the hands of the wealthiest people, while the pigs are more equally distributed. Thus in Xuan Loc village in 1994 of a total cattle population of 1453 animals 1210 or 83% were owned by 39% of the households categorized as poor and better off. The 61% very poor households had 17% of the cattle. With regard to pigs, the situation is less biased. In 1994 19% of the pigs belonged to the 9% better off households, but 47% to the 30% poor households and 33% of the pigs to the 61% very poor households.

The same broad picture with regard to ownership of animals by wealth ranking of households can be seen in Bien Dinh village. However it is interesting that in that village the majority of pigs are owned by the very poor households.

Table 19. Distribution of Cattle and pig population according to wealth rank in Xuan Loc village in 1990 and 1994
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)
Total households % % of house Cattle Population Cattle % of house Pigs Population Pigs
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)
Better off
1990 22 10 100 110 100 66
1994 33 9 100 760 100 209
1990 50 22 55 85 70 140
1994 109 30 70 450 80 511
Very poor
1990 155 68 10 30 50 100
1994 222 61 40 243 60 360
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)


Source: Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996


At this point it is pertinent - in a context of self criticism - to point out that most animal production research in developing countries has been on large ruminants and within large ruminants on crossbred milking cows. We considered ourselves to be advanced in relation to that situation by initially wanting to do research on the local cattle, exploring the potential of adding another (milking) purpose to their uses in support of the general idea of multipurpose cattle being more appropriate (Preston and Leng, 1987). However, the data in tables 19 and 20 clearly show that had we stuck to this original idea, we would only have done research for the wealthier sections of the villages and hardly touched on problems of relevance for the poor and - the environment, as the poor live off the environment to a great degree.

We overlooked poultry. There is recent evidence that species such as poultry needs further research. Ongoing work in Bangladesh shows that properly designed poultry projects (Saleque A and Mustafa S 1996, Askov Jensen H 1996, Nielsen H 1996) have a potential to reach the poorest in a village that even Grameen Bank type loans do not have (Hashemi, personal communication).

Table 20. Distribution of Cattle and pig population according to wealth rank in Binh Dien village in 1990 and 1994
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)
Total households % % of house Cattle Population Cattle % of house Pigs Population Pigs
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)
Better off
1990 15 3 90 120 90 60
1994 55 10 55 300 64 120
1990 60 11 60 84 60 120
1994 165 30 30 360 79 365
Very poor
1990 447 86 10 0 30 100
1994 337 60 3 39 67 528
BLGIF.GIF (44 bytes)


Source: Nguyen Thi Loc et al 1996



We have found it fruitful to apply a participatory approach in this research. If there is true participation the real necessities can be highlighted and new ideas can be developed and allowed to influence the research. Participation is a mutual learning process where "outsiders", local authorities and farmers can increase their awareness of what to do to achieve change. But what is true participation? There are many kinds of participation from passive participation, where people are involved merely by being told what is to happen, to self-mobilization, where people take initiatives independent of external institutions (Pretty 1995). Through the project activities it has been shown that participation is also a learning process, based principally on confidence among outsiders and the target group.

On-farm research is a dynamic process. Farmers have always experimented to produce locally-adapted technologies. Farmers are often excellent "researchers" and "extensionists". In this way, research and extension go together which is the best. When the research is done on-farm the process can be faster and there is a "natural selection" of technologies and priorities therefore there can be less waste of time and money. Applied in this way the "Farmers first and last model (FFL)" is an alternative to the transfer-of- technology model (TOT), and is based on farmers' perceptions and priorities rather than on the scientist's professional preferences, criteria and priorities.

In this project there was a clear example in how do we "outsiders" (Chambers, 1983) think about "appropriate technologies" to be applied at village level and the result was a "learning" from farmers and the project changed from, milk production as an additional purpose for the local cows to biodigesters to duck weed as a source of protein to local breeds on pigs and, finally, to get and overall view of the socio-economic situation of the village. Definitely it is a way to really, but not completely, understand the village situation. There must be an active process where outsiders try to understand the situation, offer alternatives which may have some impact in the village, using an iterative process of trial-error (Dolberg, 1994) and villagers participate actively making criticisms and suggestions to the outsiders, giving ideas which may change the researcher's objectives. The starting point must be around this approach, it can not be achieved only with participation in information giving (Pretty 1995) where people participate by answering questions posed by extractive researchers using questionnaire surveys or similar approaches and people do not have the opportunity to influence proceedings. What agriculture needs is a willingness among professionals to learn from farmers.

Close collaboration and confidence between researchers, advisors and local leaders, institutions and organizations are important preconditions for successful "on-farm research and technology adaptation". There are many factors affecting the process specially when an "outsider" comes to the village with some ideas, but little understanding of the real situation or even more important, when there are cultural and language differences between the outsider and the target group. In Vietnam, where the "local" organization is very developed, leaders and organizations such as the Women's Union's can move masses and thus activate the process. Equally they can stop it and then there is no impact. There are many internal (in the village) factors affecting the role of these institutions such as for instance lack of communication among organizations, competition for power, self interest and created interests - all of which can make the situation even more complex and will affect the work environment.

In some aspects, especially when new technologies are being developed or adapted, it is advantageous if on-farm research is complemented with "on station" research. But there must be a clear understanding of, and link with, the reality of the farmer situation.

Milk production as another "purpose" for the local cattle may have a potential. However, it may not be a first priority. Very few very poor people keep cattle, but they live off the environment by collecting and selling firewood. More work with pigs and poultry and appropriate credit arrangements are more likely to benefit them and thereby the environment.

Biodigesters can play a pivotal role in integrated farming systems by facilitating control of pollution and at the same time adding value to livestock excreta through production of biogas and improved nutrient status of the effluent as fertilizer for ponds and crop land.

Biodigester impact is variable, adoption and successful results depend on aspects such as location (availability of fuel), the way which the technology is introduced, supported, adapted and improved according to the local conditions and the technicians' attitudes.

Traditional diets for pigs lack protein and conventional protein supplements are expensive or are not available. Therefore when the biodigester is part of the system producing gas and effluent rich in nitrogen duck weed can be grown to improve the pig and poultry diet.

The present work suggests local breeds are better adapted to local environments and local resources and may out-perform the "improved" breeds under these circumstances.

Further research is needed in aspects such as:

* The role of poultry in the farming system for the poorest people

* Comparison of local and exotic pig breeds in the context of integrated farming systems.

* The way to introduce the biodigester technology in different social and ecologic conditions.

* Technical aspect in low cost plastic biodigesters: use of effluent as fertilizer, stoves for low cost plastic biodigesters, effect of use of latrines.


Those aspects are based on farmers' ideas and experiences. They are not the researcher's idea, or they have become so after a learning process at village level. However, sources of protein for livestock like aquatic plants and tree leaves need to be added to the list of future research topics.

The role played by livestock in farming systems for poor farmers is multi-faceted and synergistic and must be seen not as a primary form of production but rather in terms of its overall contribution to the total farming system and to the immediate needs of the family.

Following this exposure, we argue that integrated farming systems offer unique opportunities for maintaining and extending biodiversity. This is an area deserving much more research. However, as shown in paper "context influences content" (Gupta, personal communication) and it seems very important to conduct the comparisons in typical contexts (on-farm) with typical feeds (those farmers use).

The wellbeing of poor farmers can be improved by bringing together the experiences and efforts of farmers, scientists, researchers, and students in different countries with similar eco-sociological circumstances.

Learning by all (scientists and farmers) is a fundamental issue: Are we new professionals prepared to work according to this approach?


The authors express their gratitude to the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC) for financing the studies (Master's Programme of the Senior Author). Thanks are given to all the farmers in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages in Vietnam for sharing with us their enormous experience, for their friendship, hospitality, patience and continuous participation in this project. We were able to become good friends despite the language and cultural differences.

Special thanks go to the Women's Union in Thua Thien Hue Province: to Madam Loc, Madam Thu and all the staff members for their collaboration; and the Women's Union at village level -- Mrs Hoang Thi Hien in Xuan Loc and Mrs Phan Thi Duong Chi in Binh Dien Village for their collaboration, friendship and interest in improving the standard of living of their communities.

We are especially indebted to Mrs Phan Thi Duong Chi the leader of the women's Union in Binh Dien village, without whom it would not have been possible to achieve what was achieved.


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Annex 1. Proposal Project made for the Women's Union in Binh Dien Village (original in Vietnamese language)

The Socialist Republic of VietnamIndependence - Freedom - HappinessProposal Project
"On Developing Biogas Digesters"Women Union Binh Dien Village


1. General Characteristics. Binh Dien commune is on the hills in the South-West of Hue. This commune was established in 1975. A large area is available which is advantageous to develop animal production and agriculture. Poor women make up high rate. They are all industrious, hard working and they all try the best to build and settle down their lives in the village.

2. Climatology: The weather is quit good, suitable to planting fruit-trees, long term and short term crops and for animal production as well.

3. Population: (in a whole commune): There are 556 households and 2957 people:

Male: 1513 Female: 1440
Male labours: 749 Female labour: 701


4. Total area: 2498 ha, consisting of natural forest, planted forest and crop production (595 has)

5. Animal Production

Cattle: 800
Pigs: 1,200
Buffalo: 49
Chicken: 3,892
Ducks: 450


II. Background

1. In 1995, being helped by the SIDA-SAREC MSC course, our Women Union could make 28 Biogas Digesters to use the pig and cattle manure in order to produce gas methane for the family and we realize that it has many good points.

2. Results:

- Reducing labour time of cutting fire wood in remote forest.

- Reducing exploitation of the forest.

- Using gas makes the environment pure.

- Using gas for cooking we can keep clean the pans.

- Using effluent from the biodigester to fertilize fields, fruit trees such as bananas, lemon, chili, vegetables, etc.

- The most important thing is to reduce the amount of money for families that have to buy wood to cook because of lacking of labour to cut fire wood in the forest.

In reality, using gas for cooking is possible to reduce in a 100% the fire wood for a four-member family and 60% for a family six or more members.

After seeing the 28 Biogas Digesters in Binh Dien, many women want to have their own one. They realized that it is very advantageous for women. Now the standard of living in our commune still low, therefore they cannot afford to pay for it.

On behalf of Binh Dien Women I would like to request a financial support at the beginning in order to preserve and to develop the Biogas Digesters, which will be expanded in other surrounding areas in the future.

Binh Dien is one of the 15 communes of Hung Tra District and is the first to invest and build Biogas Digesters in TT Hue province. This is the newest and the most interesting thing to farmers in this countryside. Until now, there are a large number of visitors who want to use gas-cookers after having seen gas-cookers by themselves. They live at Huong Binh, Huong Van, Hue, 10-43 km far from Binh Dien.

Through the reality mentioned above, our Women Union would like to be the first unit applying the new scientific technological methods to continue developing in making Biogas Digesters for farmers living in 15 communes of Hung Tra District.

III. How to carry out the plan

* We plan to have a group of 4 officers (1*) They all will be trained in Biogas Digesters. One of them will have the responsibility to control the work.

* The group will introduce the advantages of use the Biogas Digesters to 15 communes of Hung Tra District and perhaps cover a wider area.

* We will install the biodigesters and we will ask the materials cost plus $100,000 VND per biogas for the labour (2*) and the follow up maintenance, this money will be used as revenue to support the project in the future.

* We include training for two people in Ho Chi Minh city (Bui Xuan An) before starting the project (a local Binh Dien person and a University support person) and local workshops to train people and exchange experiences (3*).

* Advertisement (Videos, leaflets and training material) (4*)

* University Support: to work in connection with a network of biogas digester researchers (centre in Ho Chi Minh City), to continue the research in adapting the technology to conditions in T.T.-Hue Province and diverse household situations, and to serve as facilitator in technology transfer, we will provide an honorarium and travel expenses (5*) to one lecturer in rural development at Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry.

* At the end of the project year, we will invite a researcher from Ho Chi Minh City (Bui Xuan An) to evaluate and assess the project thus far and make recommendations for future work.


To carry out the project we would like to request a financial support.

IV. Budget (1 year)

Officers (1*) salary @$300,000.00 VND/mo. 14,400,000
Material and labour for 50 biodigesters (2*) $ 450,000.00 VND 22,500,000
Motorcycle for the officers 17,500,000
Travelling expenses for the officers 1,500,000
Training (3*) 9,000,000
- 2 people to HCM City @ 1,5 million each
- 6 local workshops @ 1 million each
Advertisement and Training (4*) 1,000,000
University support (5*) 6,200,000
- 52 days @ 100 000/day + travel expenses @ 20 000/day
End of year assessment and recommendations 2,000,000
- Travel from HCM City
- Honorarium for 7 days @ 100 000 VND/day
Total $ VND 74,100,000


There will be 2 methods of credit/installation programme:

1. Those wealthier households will pay for the materials and labour immediately or upon first signs of gas production.

2. Those poorer households will enter a credit system. Farmers will repay by monthly installments in up to 10-12 months.


These two systems will ensure access to biogas technology to some poorer families while ensuring some revenue to self-sustain the project.

This is the intention and desire of Binh Dien Women Union in the future. We hope we can get the financial support to carrier out this project which will be very important to improve our standard of living.

Binh Dien, September 19, 1995
On Behalf of Binh Dien Women Union



Annex 2. Women workshop in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages


Women Workshop in Binh Dien and Xuan Loc villages - Hue ProvinceWorkshop report presented to FAO

Binh Dien Village Monday, December 4Th 1995Participants: Laders of the Women Union Binh Dien Village, people's committee and 55 women farmers


1. Introduction of the participants and objectives

2. Some Experiences in Colombia with Trichantera giganteaLylian Rodriguez

3. Trichantera gigantea in the South of VietnamMrs Hong Nhan

4. Biogas Production: "Practical Suggestions"Bui Xuan An

5. Multi nutritional BlocksBui Xuan An

6. The use of the cassava leave ensilage to feed pigs a new alternativeNguyen Thi Loc

7. Practical work and distribution of trichantera steams and Griricidia sepium seeds- Planting Trichantera gigantea- Making Multi nutritional blocks with molasses and without molasses

8. Lunch together


Xuan Loc Village Tuesday, December 5Th 1995

Participants: Leader of the Women Union Xuan Loc Village and some leaders from the people's committee and 14 women farmers and 3 men farmers

1. Introduction of the participants and objective.

2. Biogas Production: "Practical Suggestions"Bui Xuan An

3. Some experiences with Trichantera gigantea in the South of VietnamMrs Hong Nhan

4. The use of the cassava leave ensilage to feed pigs a new alternativeNguyen Thi Loc

5. Practical work and distribution of Trichantera steams and Griricidia sepium seeds- Planting Trichantera gigantea

6. Lunch together



The workshop was very useful and could be the point to start to develop a protein source in the village which is very important for farmers and research could be done as well. People were very interested specially in Binh Dien Village and farmer were selected in each village for the women union in order to develop the tree in the village and in the future other farmers can get the material to plant from them.

The suggestions in Biogas digesters were relevant because there is a project (more than 50 biogas digesters) already going on so farmers were interested in this subject.

Cassava is one of the main crops in both villages so, the use of cassave leaves ensilage is another alternative of protein from local resources.

Multi nutritional blocks were introduced in the village for the first time and people showed up interest in the new technology specially because of the hard conditions for the cattle during certain parts of the year. More work most be done in this aspect.

Slides, posters with big pictures, printed material and practical work were used as a way to show the different experiences.

In general it is an easy way to exchange ideas and experiences with farmers and it is very important to say that the facilitators were very clear in their presentations which made the workshop successful.


(Received 20 May 1996)