Community forest management status in Vietnam and emerging issues

1. Background

The implementation of the policies on multi-sector economy, and orientation of forestry strategy from State-owned forestry towards people’s forestry have emerged new elements, such as diversification of forest resource management practices.

Community involved in forest management has been adopted as a practice attracting attention from central to grass-root levels. In Vietnam, community forest has been existing for a long time closely connected with the existence and religions of different communities who are dependent on forests. In the last few years, based on the need for sustainable forest management, some local communities have allocated forests and forest land to communities, including villages and households, for management and long term utilisation, in which the communities have the ownership over the forests. In addition, the communities have also participated in contracting forests for protection, zoning for natural regeneration and new plantation programmes from governmental organizations. Experiences have shown that community based forest management is a socio-economically feasible forest management model, which corresponds to traditional customs of different ethnic groups in Vietnam. However, on the legal aspect, community is not yet recognised as an entity to be allocated with forests and forest land.

Many arising questions need to be considered, for instance what roles are the communities playing in the forest management system in Vietnam? Should community forest development be encouraged? What are emerging issues related to community forest development? How should the legal framework be defined to stimulate the communities participating in forest protection and development? etc.

This report contributes to clarify current situations, potentials, trends and issues of the community forest management process to help law and policy makers to grasp a better understanding of current forest management. This will helps those to make proposals for amendment and development of policies in order to provide a legal framework for communities to take part in forest resources protection and development in Vietnam.

This report consists of 4 parts:

Perceptions on community forest

Overview of current community forest management in Vietnam

Potentials, trends and emerging issues in community forest development


2. Contents

2.1. Perceptions on community and community forest management

a. Perceptions on “community” in forest management

Sociologists and ethnologists have different views about “community”. Here the concept “community” is used only in forest resources management. There are three types of perceptions on this:

The first one states that the term “community” refers to a pool of population who forms a society that has similar culture and customs, and has closely related production practices and livelihood, and often has a space boundary within a village.

The second one defines a “community” consists of all individuals forming a society that has similar characters and close relationships. Thus according to this point of view, the similarity of a character or some characters takes shape the community relationship in the society. There are different kinds of communities such as ethnic community, village community, religious community etc.

The third one emphasizes the concept “community” used in forest management refers to groups of people who have close production practices and livelihood. According to this view, “community” could be an entire village population; ethnic communities within a village; family clans or groups of households. Even some opinions regard “community” as cooperatives, social-political organisations, social-occupational organisations in the village.

Although there are different opinions about community, most of the ideas perceive “community” in forest management as village population.

b. Perceptions on “community forest management”

Currently, there are different concepts of “community forest management”, which can be generalised as following:

Firstly, “community forest management” is that forest being managed by the community. The community is the management body or manages the forest and shares benefits from the forest. In other words, “community forest management” is that the community participate in protecting, developing and utilising the forest regardless the forest is owned by the community or not. This kind of opinion considers community forest management the same as community-based forest management.

Secondly, “community forest management” is that the community manages the forest that belongs to them or they have rights to utilise the forest as a common property.

Thirdly, community forest management is identical with community forestry. It means a series of activities that link people with trees and products and sharing benefits from the forest.

Even though, the concept of community forest management differs one opinion from another, most of the ideas agree:

The term “community” used in “community forest management” is bounded with a concentration of individuals in a village who closely link together through production activities, living and social and cultural livelihoods.

Community forest management consists of three components:

Village community have rights to utilise forest and forest land.

Village community actively take part in managing forest and forest land in their own territory.

All households or group of households have rights to participate in or decide on issues related to protection and tending of the forest as well as sharing benefits from the forest

Two forms of community forest management include (i) the community directly manage forests and forest land that belong to them; (ii) the community take part in protection and plantation of forests that belong to the state organisations.

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