Whose forest tenure reform is it? Lessons from case studies in Vietnam

Whose forest tenure reform is it? Lessons from case studies in Vietnam

Impact of forest tenure reform on local livelihoods in Vietnam

In Vietnam, forest area under the management of local people has expanded from almost nothing in the early 1990s to nearly 3.5 million hectares (27% of the national forest area) in 2006. This study looks at the extent to which such tenure reform has worked in practice and how it has affected local people’s livelihoods and well being.

The study finds that:

  • the best quality forests are still owned by state actors while non-state actors, particularly local people, have mostly been allocated poorer and degraded forests
  • for forest resources already allocated to local people, legal permission from state authorities is still required for timber logging and use of forestland for cultivation
  • the property rights provided for under the forestry law are not included in theforest land use titles that are agreed with local people
  • production of high value forest products requires significant investment of capital and labour resources, two inputs which poor households generally lack
  • in some communities, there has been no interruption of sustainable forest management practices that worked in the past .
Based on these findings, the study makes some recommendations, some of which are given below.
  • In practice, the allocation of forest tenure rights to local people has not resulted in communities gaining actual control over local forests. For people to take meaningful control, power for management decisions must transferred by the state.
  • Lack of clarity in the policy framework, slow responses by authorities to remedy mistakes, and local people’s limited knowledge of their rights and how to protect them have all undermined forest tenure reform. Local people should therefore be provided with appropriate legal education.
  • The impact of forest tenure reform on poverty alleviation is unclear. Forest tenure reform should be made more pro-poor. This should include allocation of better quality forest to the local people, the design of mechanisms for equitable distribution of forest resources among recipients, and the provision of pro-poor capacity building and extension support.
  • Local forest management traditions have endured in spite of decades of state control. With appropriate support, communities can build on these traditions and organize themselves to sustainably manage forests.
  • Local customs should be respected. This could include improving state policies so that they are flexible in accounting for local variation of customs and culture and educating local state officials that scientific forestry is not the only way to manage forests.