Meet the Mekong Delta Rice Farmers Who Are on the Frontline of Sea Level Rise

Vice News
13 May 2015

When Hai Thach weighed his rice harvest last week it was half as much as it should have been. But it was still better than 2013, the year he lost everything.

For Thach and millions of other poor farmers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, earning an income off the land is getting harder. Prolonged dry seasons and sea-level rise, brought about by climate change, is pushing saltwater from the South China Sea deeper inland, compromising farmers’ irrigation channels.

“The water is salty every year,” Thach, 64, told VICE News, “but it’s been worse in the last three years. I’m scared because I cannot live without rice.”

Pointing next door to an empty rice field that is now caked earth with a thin white layer of salt on top, Thach said his neighbors quit farming last year. “They’re trying to sell their land and open a business in the city,” Thach told VICE News. “They are wealthier than me. That’s not something I can afford to do.”

More than 17 million people live within the Mekong Delta. Farmers and fishermen have been intensively working the tributaries and fertile fields for only about 150 years. Agricultural success there has made Vietnam the world’s third largest rice exporter. But a changing climate now threatens food security and livelihoods.

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