Meeting partners and measuring diet quality in Vietnam

A small farm in a sloping area in Sa Pa district, Lao Cai province, Vietnam (Photograph by Christian Genova)


Our PhD student Christian Genova recently visited Vietnam as part of his PhD project on smallholder vegetable farming in north-western Vietnam. We’re delighted to share his story. (Warning: a great quote at the end of the story especially for research students and researchers who work on a collaborative project 🙂

Thank you Christian for sharing with us.


The project

On March 2-21, 2015, I visited Hanoi, Vietnam to discuss the status of my PhD research proposal with my supervisors, meet several organizations and discuss possible collaborative work related to my PhD research in Vietnam, and to collect secondary information from the Provincial Statistics Office.

The Global Food Studies (GFS) at the University of Adelaide is one of the Australian commissioned institutions of the ACIAR-funded AGB/2012/059 “Towards more profitable and sustainable vegetable farming systems in north-western Vietnam” which aims “to improve the market engagement, profitability and sustainability of smallholder vegetable farmers in northwestern Vietnam”.

One of the research questions of the project looks at:

the contribution of vegetables to household nutrition of farming households in Lao Cai province, Vietnam.

This led to the development of my PhD research proposal under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Wendy Umberger, Director of Global Food Studies, and Dr. Suzie Newman, Project Leader who is currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The scope of the study

I met Prof. Umberger and Dr. Newman for several days at the Vietnam Women’s Union office where the ACIAR project office is located, and discussed about the scope of my PhD topic. The consensus was to narrow it down to measuring diet quality of households in Lao Cai province comparing urban and rural areas, and fruit-and-vegetable farming households and non-fruit-and-vegetable farming households.

A representative sample of households in Lao Cai province will be interviewed in November-December 2015 and March-April 2016 to understand their food consumption patterns and seasonal variations.

Emphasis will be on fruit and vegetable consumption based on the assumption that households with access to fruits and vegetables, e.g. home gardens and/or commercial production, have better diet quality than those who are non-fruit-and-vegetable producers.


This project works with several national collaborators like the Center for Agricultural Policy Consulting (CAP) and the Faculty of Economics and Rural Development of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), among others. We met with them to plan and discuss their potential involvement in my primary data collection activities. I also had a productive meeting with Dr. Nguyen Lan from the Scientific Research Department, National Institute of Nutrition, who shared about their 24-hour food recall modules, their current consumption research with the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), the 2014 updated data on stunting, underweight and wasting at the provincial level, and some possible data sources, e.g. Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) program. I also joined Dr. Dale Yi, GFS Postdoctoral Fellow, in several meetings and learned about the market analysis work that is currently being led and undertaken by GFS with CAP. In particular, they are looking at the roles of supply chain actors in the vegetable trade in north-west Vietnam and Hanoi.

I also met with Dr. Phan Thuy Hien, one of the project’s national coordinators, regarding the secondary information to secure from the Provincial Statistics Office; and with Ms. Nhan Tran Thanh from CAP and Mr. Do Anh Kiem from the General Statistics Office in Hanoi about the Vietnam Housing Living Standard Survey (VHLSS) samples.

Overall, this recent trip was productive. It has helped narrow down my PhD research work and laying the groundwork for the upcoming data collection activity in the latter part of this year. Once the secondary data are collected, the next steps will be the sampling design, survey instrument development and logistical arrangements for the two-month data collection activity in beautiful Lao Cai province.

As what Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”.

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