Mangrove forest management: lessons from Thailand
Mangrove forest conservation and restoration needs the participation of everyone involved, particularly local communities, for success. Favourable policies and legal frameworks are fundamentally important to support local involvement.
By Nguyen Tien Hai
From 16 to 20 August 2015, a group of senior forestry officers from Viet Nam visited mangrove forests in Thailand. Their aim was to learn from Thailand’s experience with mangrove forest management to develop policy recommendations for Viet Nam.
The visit was organised by the World Agroforestry Centre’s Viet Nam program and the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation through the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change program phase 2.
During the visit, the group had chance to interact with various key people from local to central levels who were involved in restoration and conservation of mangroves in Thailand. This included representatives from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Royal Forestry Department in Bangkok and from the Mangrove Forest Learning and Development Centre, Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited, local communities and Mangroves for the Future, Thailand in Samut Sakorn and Samut Songkram provinces.
From the lessons learned during the visit, several recommendations on mangrove forest management in Viet Nam have been prepared by the Vietnamese forestry team. First of all, Viet Nam needs to formulate specific policies that support the development and protection of mangroves. These policies should provide ample room for participation of local communities in mangrove forest management. Furthermore, to ensure implementation of such policies, development of a specific organisation responsible for managing mangroves from central to local levels should be taken into account and legally defined. Additionally, the policies will need strategies as well as a national program to develop and conserve mangroves nationwide. Under such a program, specific projects will need to be implemented with the true participation of local communities. Projects mechanically inserted by outsiders are unlikely to be succeeded. Participation by local communities and real benefits from their involvement, are the two key principles for success. Last but not least, a mechanism to raise local awareness of the mangroves and to ensure frequent communication needs to be in place as it will help to increase participation in mangrove forest management.
Experience from Thailand
Participation of local communities. Local communities are the key actors who play crucial roles in restoration and conservation of mangroves in Thailand. Without the participation of local communities, successful restoration and conservation were considered to be impossible. Evidence showed that participation of local communities in management of mangrove forests brings, simultaneously, triple sustainable benefits: environmental, social and economic.
Specific policy and legal frameworks. Policies, laws and by-laws were key mechanisms to support local communities’ involvement in forest management. Policies supporting restoration and conservation of mangrove forest in Thailand have evolved over time. Of particular note was the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act, which came into force as of 24 June 2015. This new law secures the participation of communities, local governments and other groups in restoration and conservation of mangroves. Establishment of multi-stakeholder platforms is now legally supported to develop management plans for marine and coastal resources, including mangroves, nationwide.
Specific institutional responsibility for mangrove forests. According to the new law, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has designated responsibility for management, restoration and conservation of mangroves in the country. This specific body works closely with other national and international organizations and local communities to ensure actual implementation of the new law to benefit communities and ecosystems.
National program on mangroves. A nationwide program is critical to achieve restoration and conservation of mangroves. Thailand’s Mangroves for the Future program (MFF), which is funded by international agencies, is a collaboration between DMCR and local, national and international bodies and academic institutions. MFF is of key importance in providing the needed grants and other incentives to local communities and to help empower them to become more actively involved in restoration and management of mangroves. The program is implemented through specific projects designed by local communities to meet their needs, with assistance from government and other organisations.
Raising awareness of local communities. When local communities are aware of the adverse effects that stem from degradation of mangrove forests as well as the multiple benefits of restoring them, they become eager to be involved. In Thailand, a system of learning centres has been established by government organizations, such as the DMCR, local communities and others. This system plays a central role in educating communities about the role of mangroves as well as providing technical information about restoration and conservation.
Regular and direct communication with communities. A national network of communities involved in mangrove management is important to establish, as has happened in Thailand. Regular meetings between DMCR and representatives of the Thai network are held every year. This kind of platform helps DMCR and others understand the needs of communities when preparing mangrove forest management plans or proposals to support local communities.
Special thanks to Dr Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, Natjan Chairat, Anantika Ratnamhin, Dr Orathai Ponggruktham and Dr Nguyen Phu Hung for kindly supporting the visit.
This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry