Agroforestry System in Hoa Binh province

Nguyen Thanh Lam1/, Tran Thi Lan Huong2/, Kieu Thi Huyen Trang2/

1/Faculty of Environment, Vietnam National University of Agriculture

2/Center for Agricultural Research and Ecological Studies (CARES)

1.Brief description of the province—describes location and boundaries of the province and other general characteristics

Hoa Binh is the mountainous province located in the northwest region, Vietnam. It borders Phu Tho Province and Son La Province to the northwest, Hanoi to the north and northeast, Ha Nam Province to the southeast, Ninh Binh Province to the south and Thanh Hoa Province to the south. It is 76 km far from Hanoi with the total natural area of 4,608.7 km2. The province has 10 districts and cities with 6 major ethnic minorities (Muong: 63.3%, Kinh: 27.7%, Thai: 3.9%,Tay: 2.7%, Dzao: 1.7%, H’Mong: 0.52% ) with diversified and harmonious characters, customs and habits. Total population of Hoa Binh province is 806,100 with population density: 175 persons per km2 (GSO, 2012). The province owns a very favorable transport system and diversified mineral sources. The annual economic growth rate of the province in 2012 was 11%, GDP per capita was 20.6 million Vietnamese Dong in 2012 (DPI, 2013).

Figure 1. Location of Hoa Binh province 
  1. Location of the AF System—describe all information under Category 5 in Table 1, such as the area covered by the system by district;

2.1  The area covered by the system by districts in Hoa Binh province

The major type of Agroforestry, which was found in Hoa Binh province, is Acacia and Cassava/Lemon grass. Figure 2 shows the main area of this type of agroforestry system in production forest area (category1.2.1 in the legend). Local farmers applied this AF system, when they received forestland from land allocation program.  

Figure 2. Diagram of landuse map of Hoa Binh province, 2010 

The area of planted forest and agriculture per districts of Hoa Binh province is presented in Table 2. The area of planted forest was increasing from 2010 to 2013 in Hoa Binh province. If Acacia is planted for 6 years and cassava/lemon grass for only 2 years, then the estimation of the AF system (Acacia-cassava/lemon grass) is one third of the total planted area, approximately 36 thousand ha. Districts, which have larger area of the AF model, are Da Bac, Luong Son, Lac Son, Lac Thuy, Kim Boi, Tan Lac districts. 

Table 1. Area of planted forest by districts in Hoa Binh province from 2010-2013



Agricultural (ha), 2011

Planted Forest ha-(2010)

Planted Forest ha-(2013)

AF*, ha(2010)

AF*, ha(2013)

Hòa Bình city







Cao Phong







Đà Bắc







Mai Châu







Kỳ Sơn







Lạc Sơn







Lạc Thủy







Lương Sơn







Kim Bôi







Tân Lạc







Yên Thủy














Note: *Estimated area of agroforestry system Acacia-cassava/lemon grass

Sources: Statistics year book of Hoa Binh, 2012.

2.1  History of the AF system

The system has been established in Hoa Binh since 1990’s, when land allocation and Acacia was introduced. Previous landuse was barren land or poor forest stand. Most farmers need a food and some cash and cassava was selected to interplant with Acacia for first 2 years, following pure acacia standing in 4-5 subsequence years. Lemon grass was also introduced into the AF system, but it mainly located in Tan Lac and Kim Boi district, and surrounding Hoa Binh hydro-power reservoir.  

3        Description of the AF system

3.1  The AF system design

The field survey was carried out in July 2013 in 3 districts (Tan Lac, Cao Phong, Da Bac) in Hoa Binh province (see field reports in the appendix). In each district, we found fragmented agroforestry types at various landscapes and ecological setting. Most agricultural staff that we have discussed, know intercropping between crops and crops to tree. The term of agroforestry has not yet recorded in statistic year book or in yearly report from department of agriculture and rural development (DARD).

In Tan Lac district, most fertile land were under cash crops (Maize and sugarcane). The common farming design was plantation forest is on the top hill, sugarcane or maize is on hill slope, and paddy in the valley. The tea plantation in contour (with some tree planted inside) was observed in Luong Son and Ky Son districts, and some in Cao Phong district. The most common and promising agroforestry system could be considered for Acacia forest-cassava/lemon grass for the first few years. This type of agroforestry is cross cutting and present in all districts of Hoa Binh province, where local farmers received forest under land allocation program, 327 or 661 programs.

In Cao Phong, the orange plantation is famous for whole province as well for the other provinces. Intensive farming and commercial orientation were observed for this system. However, in the first few years of system establishment, local farmers planted taro, bean, lemon grass in between orange trees, which were not matured. Crops can reduce weeds in the field, soil erosion control, provide products for the needs in the first years, share labor cost to take care fruit tree; surplus fertilizer can be taken by crops. The pest control for fruit tree is enhanced as bean was planted; frequency visit of producers. 

Inbox 1

Basic description of AF system: Acacia + Cassava or lemon grass

• The largest area of AF in Hoa Binh occupied by Tangya system: Acacia, Cassava or lemon grass, which were introduced by extension officers since 1990’s.

• The cycle: 2 years of cassava and Acacia, then Acacia are standing for 4 years before cutting. Slash and burn are used for clearing the field as the next cycle started, a little fertilizers used to apply for Acacia during plantation. Advantages of this agroforestry model was (i) easy application; (ii) low cost of plantation; (iii) most popular system among the other agroforestry types; (iv) grass prevention and mobilizing spaces in the system; (v) cassava can growth at any location and farmers can maintain for 1-2 years. Disadvantages of this system are: (i) the fields are always clear cutting which is resulted serious soil erosion; (ii) limitation of market output.

    In Da Bac district, some traditional models and new models were observed and characterized some aspects of agroforestry types. However, the scale of these models is still limited and they are not organized into specific ecological setting. (See appendix).    

3.2  Inputs and outputs per hectare—return of investment per hectare

In general, the Input and output model was investigated in Table 2 & 3. The cash return of this model is still not high enough. This explained some farmers are not applied this model.

Table 2. Input-output of the model



Cost (VND)


Establishment cost/ha



Maintenance cost/ha




17 t/ha


Gross income/ha/yr



Net income/ha/cycle



Total production volume/yr in the area



Other relevant information


Table 3. Input-output of agro-forestry system





Unit price (VND)

Amount (VND)









Cassava 1







Cassava 2







Total 6 yrs



Sources: Fieldwork in Hoa Binh, 2013

4        Environmental conditions of the Agroforestry system

  • Topography:

Hoa Binh is characterized by high mountains and it can be divided in 2 subregions: high mountainous area (Da Bac, Lac Son, Lac Thuy, Ky Son) and low mountainous area (Tan Lac, Cao Phong, Luong Son districts). The high mountainous region has elevation 600-700 m above sea level and steep slope from 25-40 degree, meanwhile the lower mountainous region has elevation of 100-200 meters above sea level, and slope 10-25 degree. This condition might lead to heavy soil erosion due to inappropriate farming. 

  • Climate

Climate of Hoa Binh province characterized by the tropical monsoon with two distinctive seasons: the wet and the dry. It is cold in the winter with less rain and hot with much rain in the summer. The mean temperature is over 230C. The highest temperature is recorded in July at average of 27-290C, while the lowest temperature is reported in January in the range of 15.5 - 16.50C. It receives about 1,800 mm of rainfall annually. The mean humidity is 83%. The wet season lasts from May to the end of October. Average rainfall in the rainy season is estimated at 1,700 – 2,500 mm, accounting for over 90% of the yearly rainfall total. The dry season begins in November and ends in April, with annual average rainfall of 150 to 250 mm, representing merely 10% of the yearly rainfall total. In the peak months of the winter (December, January and February), total monthly rainfall is reportedly roughly 30 mm. (Table 4)

  • Soils

Soil properties have upland characterized by low pH, low CEC, high clay contents and easy eroded soils.

The fertile soils are located in Cao Phong and Cao Son valleys, where agriculture is going very intensive. 

Table 4. Environmental conditions of the Agroforestry system in Hoa Binh province






Soil characteristics

Upland soils: low in pH, low CEC, soil erosion,

Forest soils, farm soils;




50 m a.s.l; mountain: 600-700 m a.s.l.



Rainfall (mm)




Air temperature0C




Soil temperature



Humidity (%)


Statistic year book of Hoa Binh province, 2012

Socio-economic conditions of the AF system

The provincial labor force was 523,400 persons in 2012 (Table 5). Hoa Binh has a diversity of ethnic groups, in which 6 major groups are Muong, Kinh, Thai, Tay, Dzao, H’mong.  All land is allocated to households and social institution and enterprises with the Red book certificate for 50 years. Local people have a legacy right to use their land.

Migration trends are still high in the province. Local people have to migrate due to construction of Hoa Binh hydropower dam during 1980’s. Recently, migration is also observed for Hoa Binh citizens moved in the city of Hoa Binh and in Ha Noi.  Free migration also is in the upland with the movement of Kinh group.

The economy of Hoa Binh is characterized industry based on hydro power activities. Tourist and agriculture activities are also depended from hydropower activities. Local people can provide services for tourist to get more income. However, total income per capita is still low 4.3 million VND.

Hoa Binh has potential for agriculture and forestry development. Farm size is still large from 0.4 to 2 ha.  How to utilized land effectively are still issued.

Table 5. Socio-economic parameters in Hai Duong province






Average farm size & land size of farmers implementing the system

0.4-2.0 ha/hh


Labor availability in the area




Average income per capita

4.3 million VND



Education level

High school level




Kinh, Muong, Thai, Dzao, H’Mong



Land ownership

Household management/red book certificate



Migration trends

Free migration

Hoa Binh hydropower


Population trends



Market information

a.      Types of markets

      The market for planted forest timber (such as Acacia, eucalyptus, Styrax) in Hoa Binh and Son La provinces can be divided into 5 following categories (Vo Dai Hai, 2005): 

      - The market for materials for paper and pulp production

      - The market for pillars and posts

      - The market for manufacturing artificial planks

      - The market for civil construction

      - The market of woodwork for domestic consumption and export

            In addition, the market for non-timber forest products is dynamic and subject to rapid change in the case of turpentine/oil of turpentine, skin and attar of cinnamons, star aniseed, bitter tea leaves, bamboo shoots, etc.

The markets are also divided into local markets and larger center markets. Local producers sell their products in local market or middle men, and then the products will be shifted to larger market in urban center, and finally, the products will be distributed to the customers according to their demand. Each larger center market has number of local markets as its network. The prices of productions were different and increased from farm gate to local market and larger markets. The different price of larger market or whole sale markets about 20-50% of the price at farm gate level.    

b.      Access to markets

In theory, all farmers can bring their products to local or center markets. However, the market service networks are quite developed in the upland in Hoa Binh as well as transport systems are good enough for services. The producers can sell products everywhere they want to.

For grain products (maize, rice, bean), the collector networks are so diverse at each location. Farmers or producers can sell their products at their farm, their house or nearby the road where trucks can easy to assess and collect all products.

c.       Access to credit

Access to credit is still difficult in the upland of Hoa Binh. Only 5-10% households, who were classified poor household, can receive small credits (small fund) from the bank of policy and social development or Agribank (the bank for agriculture and rural development) as called banks for the poor. The funds can be used to buy pig, cattle, buffalo or forest plantation at household level.

If farmers have the contracts with Companies (i.e. CP Group), they can get some technical supports and credits in term of fertilizers and pesticide. After harvest, they have to sell their products to CP group (Maize).  

d.      Access to seeds/seedlings

There are 3 main sources of tree seedling in Hoa Binh: Luong Son forest enterprise, district and farm nursery. Farmers can go to these destinations to buy tree seedling with small amount or they can order tree nursery owners to bring tree seeding for them.

Farmers can receive tree seedlings from some forestry projects and extension network.


e.       Access to fertilizer, pesticides and other inputs

Each communal center has a few shops to sell fertilizers, pesticide and agricultural tools. The price is always higher than the price of these products in lowland as it added transport cost (10-15%). Some farmers blamed the quality of these products and they prefers to order the bus drivers to buy directly fertilizers, pesticide and other inputs from the lowland (i.e. Ha Tay and Hoa Binh city).

f.        Access or source of information on the AF system

Each mixed garden displays distinct type of agroforestry system. Local farmers prefers to intercropped or interplanted crop (Maize, canna, cassava) with tree such as melia, styrax and acacia. However, their fully understanding about interaction and combination of tree and crops are still limited.

The statistic figures at DARD (department of Agriculture and Rural Development) and statistic offices have no lines mentioned about agroforestry.

g.      Access or source of market information

Farmers can obtain market information from multiple sources of media such as Television channel, middle men, retailers, local market, neighbors, and relatives. However, most of them knew what happened and they followed up these signals without carefully consideration. In sometimes they have to pay a lot of compensation due to limited market price.

h.      Marketing issues/challenges

      - The price of timber from planted forests is affected by many factors. One is the distance from forest to factories. For instance, the Bai Bang paper-mill buys timbers near the mill at 400,000 VND per ton; meanwhile, farmers in Tuyen Quang and Yen Bai only sell at 200,000 VND per ton. Therefore, instead of selling timber to the paper mills, many households sell to traders as construction materials or to local carpenter shops. This situation, however, completely depends upon each area.

Market information

•      Graph of price of AF product: Acacia price is more stable over the years; but Cassava price is very fluctuation from 180 VND to 250 VND/kg fresh weight of cassava root at farm gate or local village produced cassava.

•      Type of market: local, regional, national.

Basic market value chain description

Farm gate/village

•      Acacia can provide 24 – 26 million VND per ha after 6 years of plantation. Acacia can use for construction, paper mill industry, fast growing tree and nitrogen fixation ability. 700,000 VND/m3 Acacia timber

•      Cassava: 14 ton/ha/yr can provide additional income. However, the price of cassava was still low, 180-250 VND/kg of fresh weight.

•      Farmers spent only their labor cost and a little of fertilizer application at starting point.

To customers: increased 25-30% for Acacia timber; 50-100% for Cassava; 

  1. Policy or programs supporting or not supporting the adoption of AF system

With the purpose of improving forest management and alleviating poverty, the government has adopted a number of policies and development programs since the beginning of the 1990s (see Table 6). The most important of these are the 327 CP and 5 Million Hectare Reforestation programs. The 327 program (issued in 1992, implemented from 1993) gave top priority to developing barren lands, estimated at 35 to 42 percent of the country’s land area. A 10-year program co-ordinated by the State Planning implemented about 1,800 projects. These were to be implemented by provinces in co-ordination with several central ministries: the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Aquatic Products.

The objectives of the 327 program include: re-greening degraded hills; protecting forests and the environment; utilizing barren lands in hilly areas, coastal alluvial plains, and water bodies to produce goods and industrial raw materials; promoting permanent, integrated land use development; combining economic and social activities to improve rural peoples’ quality of life; stabilizing village settlement; and generating income for the government and consolidating national security.

The 5 Million Hectare Reforestation Program aims to plant 5 million ha of forest, including 3 million ha of protection forest and 2 million ha of production forest, and also to protect existing forest. The objective is to increase the country’s forest cover to 43 percent, in order to improve environmental protection and biodiversity conservation and alleviate natural disasters. Development objectives include more job opportunities for the upland population and increased supply of forest products for paper mills, firewood, and domestic consumption and export.

Several projects and development programs were implemented in individual hamlets as they were under 135 program.  Agroforestry is also encouraged and implemented by some projects surrounding Hoa Binh hydro-power dam.

Table 6. Summary of the most important decrees and resolutions concerning forest management and land allocation


Government policies/program

Objectives and implementing body


Land reform

Forest enterprise & co-operatives under government control


Directives 29/7CP

Allocation not only to forest enterprises & co-operatives, but also to farm households


Decision No. 1171/QD

Management regimes of production, protection, and special use forest


Land reform

Allocation of agricultural land directly to land users


Decision 72 - HDNT

Socio-economic development program in the uplands


Forest law

Law on forest protection and management


327 program

Regreening barren hills and making use of waste land


Resolution No. 02/CP

Forestland allocation for forestry purposes


Resolution No. 01/CP

Allocation of contact land for agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture


5 Million Hectare Reforestation (661 program)

Reforestation of 5 million ha during the period: 2000 - 2010


Decision 245/TTg

State management of forest with recognition of the role of communes


Circular letter 56/1999/TT/BNN-KL

Leads to make agreement of protecting and development forest in native village community.


Direction 52/2001/CT/BNN-KL

To promote ability, role and local people participation and unions of forest protection and development


Determination 178/2001/QD TTg

Allow to collect NTFPs except for the protected species in the list


Determination 04/2004/QD-BNN-LN

To promulgate statute of exploiting timber and forestry products.

Local authority’s strategy

The provincial and district authorities allow local farmers to do swidden in places where paddy production is not high enough to maintain food security. In some areas, the amount of paddy area is the main criteria used to determine how much land can be used for swidden farming. In other cases, the district authorities have set aside a fixed area for swidden/fallow rotation, and local farmers are not allowed to do swiddening in the area designated as forest area (Tan Minh, Cao Son commune in Da Bac district).

  1. Challenges and opportunities of the AF system---please include long-term risks and some recommendations to increase opportunities (please include environmental, economic, social and policy challenges, if possible)

The cycle of this agroforestry system (Acacia – cassava) is short. Cassava can be planted for 2 years per 6 years of the cycle. All upland farmers have opportunity to apply this Agroforestry model, which can be easy implemented with the cheapest cost. 

However, local farmers have still faced several problems as following:

Market constraint: farm gate price of upland production (Acacia, Cassava) is always lower 30-50% than the price sale to customers. The production of this model has fragmented characters and it makes some difficulty for collectors. 

Organization: Not yet farmer association or group of households takes care for the products.

Soil erosion issues: clear cutting during the harvesting timber might result serious soil erosion.  

Management issue: Local staff and extension officers are well known reforestation/afforestation. Meanwhile, the word “Agroforestry” has still not yet appeared in the report at DARD (Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry).  This indicator might show practical implementation of agroforestry model is still difficult.  

  1. Concluding comments/remarks

The agroforestry model (i.e. Acacia and Cassava/Lemon grass) has adapted in Hoa Binh conditions. It is distributed widely in each district of Hoa Binh, especially in high mountainous sub-region. The system has number of advantages over other types of Agroforestry: low cost of implementation, easy to apply, at any soils, weed control, long and shorten purposes. It tends to be long run as it has formulated a common cycle: clearing-burning- tree interplanted with cassava/lemon grass planting (standing for 2 years)- harvesting for over 6 years. 

However, this system still has some limitation as clear cutting resulting in serious erosion, market issues, and management issues. The integration of tree and crops in this system should be enhanced and studied. 

Acknowledgement: This research was carried out under support from ICRAF in 2013.


Department of Planning and Investment of Hoa Binh province, 2012. Report on socio-economic development of Hoa Binh province in 2012 and planning for 2013.Hoa Binh province.

GSO, 2012. Annual Statistics of Hoa Binh province. Statistic office. Hanoi.

Hai, V.D. 2005. Marketing agro-forestry products in Hoa Binh, Son La provinces.