Origin and General Orientations of the SAM Program
In the uplands of Northern Vietnam, increasing population pressure combined with privatization of the economy, land redistribution and political reforms were the main driving forces behind the rapid and profound land use changes which occurred during the past decades. Lowland areas are now saturated while the development of non-sustainable agricultural practices on the hillsides endangers fragile upland ecosystems. These recent trends in land use changes plead for new ways to produce that would be more respectful of the natural resource base while covering increasing food needs.
The Mountain Agrarian Systems Program (SAM) started in 1998 with the main objectives of improving (i) agricultural productivity (ii) natural resources management and (iii) the living standards of highlands ethnic minority groups. The SAM Program is made of two sub-programs. Based on a preliminary agronomic diagnosis characterizing and explaining intra- and inter-field heterogeneity, and ranking production limiting factors, the “Cropping Systems” component identifies, adapts, tests, and extends improved cropping systems from field to small watershed levels. The “Regional” component aims at achieving a good understanding of the processes of land use changes and their main driving forces from farm to provincial levels prior to the introduction of technical and organizational innovations. This component is complementary to the “Cropping Systems” component as it identifies extrapolation keys to large geographic areas of locally obtained research results, and offers new tools to facilitate decision making in the field of rural development and sustainable natural resource management in the uplands (cf. figure here below).