Fall 2011

Dalat, Vietnam

In recent years, Vietnam has become one of the world’s largest coffee producers. The industry has drastically changed the country’s agricultural landscape, with large, dense monocrops plantations replacing small, diverse family farms. This farming system has prompted significant deforestation along the mountainous slopes. Together, these factors have led farmers to experience significant erosion, nutrient loss, loss of topsoil, polluted water sources, and compacted soils. These negative impacts have led to a dependence on the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which can have severe consequences to human health and the earth’s future food productivity.The incorporation of biodiversity and polycultures into coffee plantations are one solution. They aid in pest control, cut environmental impacts, and can provide additional means of income.

In the Fall of 2011 A Growing Culture worked side by side a community of minority Montagnards –local Dalat farmers–and the French organization Jangala to introduce perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi) into coffee plantations. Well adapted to low fertility soils, inexpensive to implement, and easily maintained, the perennial peanut is a wonderful and practical way to stop soil erosion, build organic matter, add nitrogen to the soil, eliminate the need for conventional herbicides and fertilizers.

In just one year the peanut covered the whole area effectively. With a strong ground cover present, small animals like chickens could be introduced and grazed on its high protein forage, adding to the fertilization of the coffee trees. Additionally, the perennial peanut flowers at the opposite time as the coffee flower, which creates a great environment for bee production and a year-round nectar supply.