Vietnam Emissions Reduction Challenge Project



The AgResults Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project was a four-year, US$8 million prize competition that aimed to develop, test, and scale up innovative technologies, tools, and approaches to increase yields and reduce GHG emissions in rice production. The project planned to lower GHG emissions, protect the environment, and ultimately reduce poverty among smallholder farmers in the region. Focusing on the Thai Binh province in the Red River Delta, the project used results-based prize incentives to attract a diverse pool of private sector actors, and was conducted in two phases. SNV Vietnam served as the Project Manager.

Smallholder farmers in Vietnam are learning how to increase rice yields in a way that is environmentally sustainable.
AgResults Vietnam Project Timeline

The learning journey

The problem

Paddy Rice Farming Drives Agricultural Emissions

Current rice farming practices in South and Southeast Asia produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG), particularly non-carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions including methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These compounds are potent contributors to global GHG emissions that drive climate change-related extreme weather events, including droughts and floods. Smallholder rice farmers contributing to these emissions, including those in Vietnam, are particularly vulnerable to climate-related shocks.


Contest design

Theory of Change

The project was designed to incentivize private sector rice companies to develop, test, and promote the use of improved rice farming technology packages that reduce GHG emissions and increase yields. Spurred by the prospect of prizes, companies developed innovative strategies to market their solutions to as many smallholder rice farmers as possible. On average, successful packages cost less (through reduced fertilizer use) and increase yields, raising incomes. Lower GHG emissions served as a possible market opportunity for participating companies to capitalize on national or global demand for low-carbon agriculture, helping Vietnam reduce emissions across the country.

Prize Structure

The prize consisted of two phases, a testing phase and a scale-up phase, illustrated in the diagram below:

Technologies Being Tested

All proposed technology packages comprised elements that fall under the following categories, which are the most significant drivers of on-farm GHG emissions for rice.

  • Fertilizer use: type, application rates, timing, and methods
  • Rice husk and straw residue management: fraction removed from the field, fate and timing of incorporation
  • Water management: continuous flooding, mid-season drain for applications of agrochemicals and pesticides, “Alternate Wetting and Drying”
  • Tillage practices: frequency, timing, and depth
  • Organic amendments: type, amount applied, and timing of application
  • Rice varieties: growth duration and planting density


Setting up reliable verification systems to authenticate results on which prizes are based was a crucial aspect of designing a PfR prize contest. In Vietnam, verification was conducted differently in each phase. Phase 1 verification design relied on direct measurement of GHG emissions and rice yields for each technology and corresponding baseline. Phase 2 largely used remote sensing data to verify emissions and yields and will employ existing models calibrated using field measurements of GHG emissions, rice yields, and crop production practices gathered in Phase 1.

Phase I Verification

Phase I verification employed a combination of direct measurements and modeling of GHG emissions and rice yields for each competitor technology and corresponding baseline.

Define Baseline Management Practices

The Verifier conducted a baseline survey in early 2017 to define the most common rice cropping practices in Thai Binh. These sets of practices served as the baselines against which to measure a competitor’s GHG emission reductions and rice yields.

Set Up and Run Control Plots

The Verifier set up control plots, one for each competitor, and managed the control plots per baseline management standards.

Verify Competitor Practices and Measure GHG Emissions and Yields

Following a detailed calendar, the Verifier took on-field GHG measurements for competitor and control plots weekly and at each major cropping event. The Verifier also made sure that competitors followed their proposed technology packages. Yield results at the end of harvest were obtained for each competitor and control plot. 

Quantify Outcomes and Determine prizes

The Verifier quantified GHG emissions reductions and yield increases compared to the baseline and, after uncertainty calculations, proposed awards.

Phase 2 Verification

Phase 2 verification used existing proven rice crop verification processes and incorporates Phase 1 results to calibrate its models. In this phase, the Verifier used two data platforms to collect raw data, which fed into GHG and yield modeling systems to verify GHG emissions and yields in fields across the Thai Binh province.

Steps to Verification

  1. (Pre-Phase 2 and as needed) Verifier trains competitors in verification system and tools.
  2. Competitors engage/organize farmers to participate.
  3. Competitors provide farm location, soil type, demographics to cloud-based data system through mobile apps.
  4. Verifier aggregates data and finalizes monitoring and oversight protocols.
  5. SHFs implement technology on associated fields, with competitors providing confirmation of technology implementation through mobile apps (GPS-tagged photos of field, drain, fertilizer, etc.).
  6. Using competitor-provided info, Verifier conducts event-based spot checks using mobile collection tools.
  7. Geospatial imagery used to monitor drain events and crop growth on all competitor fields.
  8. Verifier calculates prizes based on results from all fields that successfully implemented technology package.
  9. AgResults awards prizes to competitors.

Expected impact

The project was expected to engage private sector rice value chain actors to test and scale up the use of innovative rice farming technology packages that increase yields and reduce GHG emissions. Through this process, smallholder farmers gravitated towards the most cost-effective technologies, increasing yields and improving livelihoods. The project reduced GHG emissions, paving the way for wider uptake across Vietnam and potential monetization through carbon markets.

AgResults expected to achieve the following by the end of the project:

Actual results


# of Competitors


Prize funds awarded (USD)


SHF Reached


Farmer Income Increase (%)

Learning & evaluation

What We've Learned through Implementation

This table illustrates how our learning evolved in Vietnam from project design through implementation. Further details can be found in the Learning Library.

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Evaluation Design

The evaluation for Vietnam was conducted in two stages: The first stage evaluated Phase 1, which focused on developing innovative technology packages that reduce GHG emissions while increasing rice yields. The second stage of the evaluation focused on assessing if the competitors increased adoption of those technologies by farmers and improved their incomes. The Evaluator conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) by randomly assigning 50 communes to the control group.

Evaluation Stage

The Stage 1 evaluation is complete, including the baseline report and endline report. The baseline for Phase 2 of the project is also complete and awaiting approval before public dissemination.

Project team