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.
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.
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.
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.
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 employed a combination of direct measurements and modeling of GHG emissions and rice yields for each competitor technology and corresponding baseline.
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.
The Verifier set up control plots, one for each competitor, and managed the control plots per baseline management standards.
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.
The Verifier quantified GHG emissions reductions and yield increases compared to the baseline and, after uncertainty calculations, proposed awards.
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.
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:
# of Competitors
Prize funds awarded (USD)
Farmer Income Increase (%)
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.
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.
This section shares our learning from the Vietnam Emissions Reduction Challenge Project design and implementation. Further details can be found in the Learning Library.
November 15, 2021
In Vietnam, rice is a critical crop for income and food security. However, current production practices can lead to high rates of unwanted greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute heavily to climate change. The AgResults Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project (2016-2021) used a Pay-for-Results (PfR) prize competition to encourage the private sector in Thai Binh to test, develop, and scale improved technology packages among smallholder rice farmers. Over four growing seasons, four competitors engaged more than 25,000 farmers, increasing yields by 4-14% and incomes by 10-15%.
January 28, 2022
This evaluation final report by Abt Associates shows that Pay-for-Results spurred private sector development and dissemination of emissions-reducing, yield-enhancing technology packages among smallholder farmers in Vietnam. A 2100-farmer survey showed that AgResults farmers achieved 14 percent higher yields than comparison farmers and used practices associated with lower emissions. However, project measurements of emissions were uncertain, so evaluators could not determine emissions impact. Future projects should pay attention to reliability of field-based emissions measurements.
February 14, 2022
This one-pager summarizes results and lessons learned from the Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project, which used a Pay-for-Results prize competition structure to incentivize private sector competitors to test and scale technology packages among smallholder rice farmers in Thai Binh Province. Over four seasons, four competitors reached 37,596 different smallholder farmers across 507 villages.
May 23, 2023
Two years’ after the project’s conclusion, Evaluators found that several companies and many farmers were continuing to use (with some adaptation) rice production systems that had been introduced by companies during the competition. Farmers were more likely to use those systems if they received continuing support from the company and if water management systems were reliable.
January 27, 2022
This brief summarizes the final evaluation report of the Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project, showing that PfR can spur the private sector to develop and disseminate emissions-reducing technology packages for smallholder farmers. AgResults farmers achieved 14 percent higher yields than comparison farmers and were more likely to use practices associated with lower GHG emissions. The project’s main challenge was obtaining reliable measurements of emissions.
October 4, 2022
This brief by External Evaluator Abt Associates discusses quantitative methods for conducting impact assessments of smallholder farmer benefits from donor-devised interventions that stimulate private sector engagement in markets for technologies benefiting the farmers. The brief presents three AgResults Pay-for-Results competitions as examples and offers seven lessons for evaluators.
June 16, 2021
This brief, the second in a series of five, provides an overview of the second phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers conduct deeper research on relevant market systems to articulate a Theory of Change for the competition and to reasonably estimate the project’s impacts.
June 25, 2021
This brief, the third in a series of five, provides an overview of the third phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can create the set of parameters and rules that determines who competes, how to win the prize(s), and the implementation timeline.
July 9, 2021
This brief, the fourth in a series of five, provides an overview of the fourth phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can determine the size of the prize purse to effectively drive participation and innovation without overpaying for results.
July 21, 2021
This brief, the fifth and final in the series, provides an overview of the fifth phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can develop a thorough verification plan to evaluate competitors’ results and determine prize payments. It also summarizes the activities involved in project management of a prize competition.
November 9, 2021
Recent events like the Food Systems Summit and COP26 illustrate the growing importance of discussions around resilience and…
August 26, 2021
On August 25, the AgResults Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project held its official closeout event to recognize…
October 30, 2019
By Tulika Narayan and Judy Geyer, Abt Associates As the External Evaluator for AgResults, Abt Associates uses a mix of…
February 24, 2020
Three years in, the AgResults Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project has had the opportunity to reflect on…
SNV – Team Lead
Dr. Tran Thu Ha is a pioneer development expert in investigating and implementing low carbon rice farming technologies. From 2010-2015, as the Project Director for the Environmental Defense Fund, she led the flagship Vietnam Low Carbon Rice Project in the Mekong Delta. Since July 2016, as the Team Leader for the AgResults Vietnam Emissions Reduction Challenge Project, Dr. Tran has been leading the design and implementation of the nation-wide scale result-based financing project to catalyze the innovative technologies and unlock the investment from the private sector to enhance the uptake of transformational rice farming technologies for economic, social, and environmental benefits for Vietnam and the region. In 2003, Dr. Tran completed an International Masters of International Business Administration with distinction from Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.