Managing Vietnam's Forests: What Do Local Communities Think ?
Nguyen Nghia Bien
One of the challenges facing forest conservation in Southeast Asia is to develop management systems that deliver environmental sustainability and secure long-term livelihoods for local people. Choosing and developing such systems is a complex task since there are many diverse and often conflicting interests to take into account. This study in the northern uplands of Vietnam has shown that a participatory approach can yield results that inform policy making and empower and involve local communities. This study looked at three different communities, the study found a consensus among the local population that they wanted to manage forest resources on a privatised basis. Vietnam, like most developing countries, suffers from serious environmental problems such as deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and unsustainable livelihoods. In the last fifty years, forest cover has dropped from over 43% to less than 28%, leaving more than 13 million hectares of denuded hills. Ineffective institutional arrangements such as inadequate property rights and enforcement, lack of local participation and misguided policies are partly to blame. Indeed, for decades, a top-down approach has been used by lowland policy makers in formulating policies on upland development, without considering local initiatives and interests.
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