Tien Le, from Vietnam, came to Ontario as professional fellow through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a program that provides community leaders with a month-long work placement. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

ONTARIO – Ontario said goodbye last week to an international visitor who came to eastern Oregon as part of a professional exchange program.

Tien Le, from Cần Thó City, Vietnam, came to Ontario as professional fellow through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a program that provides community leaders with a month-long work placement.

This was Ontario’s third year providing a venue, drawing visitors from Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and now, Vietnam.

City Manager Adam Brown said the program was started in 2013 by the U.S. Department of State under President Barack Obama to strengthen ties with the countries in southeast Asia.

For Le, this was a chance to enhance her leadership skills and learn about agricultural best practices.

Tien works as a project officer at Training Vinh University. Her project focuses on environmental issues related to rice farming in the Mekong Delta, a soggy plain roughly the size of Switzerland.

Rice is the country’s staple crop, and approximately 60-70 percent is grown in the fertile delta area in southern Vietnam.

It’s an area that’s threatened by rising sea levels and greenhouse gas emissions.

“In Vietnam, 15 percent of greenhouse gasses is emitted from rice farming,” said Le. “A lot of methane is made from rice grown under flooded conditions.”

Another major concern, Le said, is the amount of salt water pushed into the delta as a result of rising sea levels. Salt that enters the soils can harm rice production.

Part of Le’s work is helping researchers at the university, non-profit organizations and technological companies implement development projects in the delta.

“I learned a lot from the Malheur Experiment Station,” she said. “Clint Shock gave me advice on how to work closely with farmers and how to get them to see the benefit of adopting that advice.”

Le also learned efficient water management used by farmers in drought-prone areas, such as the high desert region.

“I learned about ways to save water through the irrigation system,” she said.

Le said she plans to share her new ideas and knowledge with her colleagues back home, but implementing such practices will be challenging.

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377