Livestock Research for Rural Development 15 (1) 2003

Citation of this paper

Possible consequences of inappropriate intensification of animal production in Vietnam and approaches to avoid

Nguyen Xuan Trach

Hanoi Agricultural University
Hanoi, Vietnam


(Paper presented at the NIAH-CIRAD workshop on Trends of animal production in Vietnam to the year 2010, held in Hanoi on 24-25 October 2002)


To meet a rapid growth of demand for animal products in Vietnam intensification of animal production is indispensable. That is because there are now important socio-economic constraints to increasing animal production in the traditional mixed smallholder systems, although they have been reasonably productive and inherently sustainable. However, introduction of intensive animal production units with imported modern technologies for higher productivity may, on the other hand, result in consequences that are not in line with development targets such as alleviation of poverty, creation of jobs, more equitable life styles, protection of the environment, and conservation of biodiversity. This warrants researches for appropriate ways of intensification of animal production. Therefore, a conceptual framework is herein proposed for development of management, technical and policy approaches toward appropriate intensification of animal production without the dilemma between unsustainable high productivity and low-productive sustainabilty . 

Key words: Demand animal products, environment, poverty, employment, production systems


The rapid increase in disposable incomes of the people has resulted in higher and higher rates of consumption of animal products in Vietnam. To meet the growing demand, Vietnam, as an agricultural country, cannot rely on imports of animal products. Domestic animal production must, in one or another way, provide more and more consumable outputs with better and better quality.  

Traditionally, animal production has been an integral part of mixed smallholder systems in Vietnam. In a low-income country, these integrated crop-animal systems have considerable advantages compared with specialized cropping or animal production in that although each of these integral sub-systems may function independently, they are nevertheless complementary and synergistic. The integration and synergism of the sub-systems can produce a greater output than the sum of their individual effects. Such integrated crop-animal systems allow for minimizing wastes through recycling, which in turn reduces the need for raw materials from outside, minimizing risks for farmers. In addition, they can help to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity owing to using indigenous inputs, which also require less agro-chemicals. Greater use of indigenous knowledge and more complete use of rural labor in these systems ensure high productivity, income and access to goods and services of the rural population. Thanks to these integrated farming systems, “if it were assessed in terms of sustainable agriculture it (Vietnam) would be among the leaders” (Preston 1995).  

The traditional integrated crop-animal systems, which have often been developed over hundreds of years, are reasonably productive and inherently sustainable. However, it should be recognized that there are now important socio-economic constraints to increasing animal production in such mixed smallholder systems (Ogle and Phuc 1997). Especially, they are now challenged due to declining farm size and raising consumer demand for animal products. As a result, intensive animal production is indispensable because intensive production systems can produce more outputs per unit of land resource than the traditional systems. Actually, middle-scale animal farms and large-scale animal production units have been recently developed in peri-urban areas, satisfying an important part of the consumer demand in the big cities (Le Viet Ly 2000).  

Nevertheless, it is of increasing concern nowadays that undesirable ecological and sociological consequences may result from intensification of animal production. The present paper is, therefore, aimed to discuss possible negative impacts of inappropriate intensification of animal production and then propose a conceptual framework for improved animal production with environmental and socio-economic sustainability.

Consequences of inappropriate intensification of animal production 

As experienced in many developing countries, although intensification of animal production can bring more animal products per unit of resource, thus better meeting the increasing demands for domestic consumption as well as export, imported technologies for such intensive animal production have almost always failed to overcome the constraints imposed on local farming systems or to meet the socio-economic requirements of farmers (Sansoucy 1995). The following consequences of introducing large-scale intensive livestock production systems with imported modern technologies are possible and should be taken into account. 

Increased unemployment and impoverishment 

An important question of concern is how intensification of animal production should be undertaken in a densely populated country with the majority living in rural areas. Intensification of animal production with use of technologies imported from developed countries means minimum use of labor and maximum use of labor saving devices. The labor saving technologies would in turn require the use of large amounts of fossil fuels. Two main factors that would lead to such intensive animal production systems are high cost of labor and low cost of fossil fuels. This is not the case of Vietnam where around 80% of the population (c.a. 80 million) live in rural areas and approximately 70% of these rely on agriculture for employment and income.  

In Vietnam there is still a big problem of rural poverty which urgently needs to be alleviated. In the years to come the challenge is to decrease rural poverty in rural areas as only a limited amount of people can be absorbed into urban businesses (Orskov 2001). Introduction of modern large-scale industrial livestock units would lead to problems for smallholder producers who cannot compete for available feed resources and markets (Ogle and Phuc 1997) and may not have the skills for the more sophisticated management which is required (Preston 1995). This will ultimately result in a reduction in rural employment opportunities and easily turn the problem of rural unemployment into an even greater problem of urban unemployment (Figure 1). So, intensive animal production may benefit a few capable people at the expense of the majority who will lose their shares in common resources, both tangible and intangible, and job opportunities. Consequently, the disadvantaged people will be faced with empoverishment, the gap between the few rich and the major poor will be larger and larger, and social evils will become a heavy burden. Clearly, modern intensive animal production models imported from developed countries are sociologically unsustainable under the circumstances of a developing country like Vietnam. 

Figure 1: Increased sociological  problems due to inappropriate intensification of animal production

Increased economic risks 

Intensive animal production systems based on imported genetics, technologies and feeds are also economically unsustainable (Figure 2). They are first subjected to changes in price and availability of the inputs, to say nothing of difficulty marketing products in the changeable international markets. Under certain conditions the producers can earn much profit by using low-priced imported feeds, but their businesses are vulnerable to any economic instability (Le Viet Ly 2000). These intensive systems will generally increase foreign exchange deficit due to high imports. In addition, the producers need to have high management skills and technical expertise, whereas the margins gained may be small. Another factor contributing to economic risks for these intensive systems is the introduced exotic animals being highly susceptible to diseases and vulnerable to hardship under unfavorable tropical climate conditions. The dangers of introducing inappropriate imported technologies have been well illustrated in the recent economic crisis in other South-East Asia countries. For example, in Indonesia 80% of the poultry industry went bankrupt causing many problems of food supplies and malnutrition (Orskov 2001).

Figure 2: Increased economic risks due to inappropriate intensification of animal production



Figure 3: Negative impacts of inappropriate intensification of animal production on the environment and biodiversity

Negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity 

Protection of the environment and biodiversity is of increasing concern nowadays. That is because human activities are causing alarming levels of atmospheric contamination, deforestation, erosion, soil and water pollution and loss of biodiversity, which are all affecting people’s livelihood and health, and threatening sustainable development (Preston 1995). Modern large-scale industrial livestock units, which are partly based on imported concentrate feeds and exotic breeds, have recently been introduced into Vietnam. This will easily lead to problems to the environment and biodiversity (Figure 3). In such intensive production units the high animal population will produce too much excreta while there are not enough associated crops to recycle it. They will also result in a reduction in the numbers of indigenous animals, which are highly tolerant to diseases and efficient in utilizing local feeds, especially agricultural by-products and household leftovers. 

Proposed approaches for intensification and further improvement of animal production in Vietnam

The above mentioned possible consequences of introducing intensive production systems with inappropriate technologies imported from developed countries should imply that they are not sustainable in social and ecological terms for Vietnam. Therefore, any strategies for intensification of animal production in the country must keep balance between the intensification targets and sustainable development targets (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Needed balance between intensification targets and sustainable development targets

Intensification of animal production in Vietnam should thus be aimed at  the following integrated targets:

-                Increased productivity without compromising ecological benefits and job opportunities.
Increased economic growth together with alleviation of rural poverty and attainment of food security.
Increased income of the producers coupled with improved social welfare and equitable life styles.

 Putting all together, it would be now convenient to introduce a conceptual framework for intensification and further improvement of animal production in Vietnam to be able not only to meet the rapidly increasing demand for animal products but also ensure sustainable development (Figure 5).

Figure 5: A conceptual framework for intensification and further improvement of animal production in Vietnam

To obtain the balanced targets, efforts to rationally intensify animal production need to take into account the available natural resources as well as the socio-economic environments. Efficient management strategies, appropriate technical interventions and sound policies are then required. Researches for them are needed and should be focused on:

-   Improving efficiency in the use and management of natural resources to optimize the capacity of the local ecosystem to produce increased animal products;
-    Matching genetic potentials of animals with local feed resources, climate conditions, and animal husbandry expertise;
 Maximizing the use of indigenous knowledge and labor;
-    Minimizing wastes through recycling and improved utilization of byproducts to reduce the need for external raw materials and help to protect the environment;
Intensification of small-scale animal production which can create more job opportunities;
-   Developing technologies with farmer participation to ensure high levels of adoption and sustainability.
-   Improving smallholder livestock production through improved nutrition, animal health, animal genetics and extension of information to producers;
-  Increasing the value of livestock production to smallholder producers by effective processing and marketing of their products ;
-  Developing sound policies for better use of common resources and fair commodity prices. 


Le Viet Ly 2000 Development of a sustainable animal production system based on the advantage of tropical agriculture. Workshop-seminar on “Making better use of local feed resources”. January, 2000. SAREC-UAF.


Ogle B and Phuc B H N 1997 Sustainable intensive livestock-based systems in Vietnam. IRDCurrent 14: 16-22.


Orskov E R  2001 Sustainable resources management and rural development in Vietnam. Paper presented at the seminar on ruminant nutrition held in Hanoi on 12 January 2001 by Vietnam Animal Husbandry Association.

Preston T R  1995 Strategy for sustainable use of natural renewable resources: constraints and opportunities. Tropical Feeds and Feeding Systems. FAO. Pp: 121-144.

Sansoucy R 1995 Livestock-a driving force for food security and sustainable development. World Animal Review No 84-85.


Received 2 November 2002; Accepted 4 January 2003

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