Collective effort toward more sustainable forestry management in Viet Nam
Viet Nam steps up efforts to put smallholders’ forest communities at the forefront of its sustainable forest management program through UN REDD+ and partnerships with the private sector.
By Anoushka Carter and Johanna Gammelgaard
In Viet Nam, owing to premature harvesting, 80% of the wood from planted forests is earmarked for pulp or woodchip processing rather than higher-value timber products. Certifying that timber comes from sustainably-managed forests encourages smallholders to harvest trees at later ages, thus producing timber suitable for higher-value products, which increases smallholders’ incomes.
Demand for certified timber continues to grow both domestically and globally. By 2025, Viet Nam aims for 1 million hectares to be classified as sustainable. The Forest Stewardship Council provides the most widely adopted certification scheme in Viet Nam that can meet international trade standards; smallholders have access to very few other options.
“There is a clear need for Viet Nam to establish and operate its own national forest certification system that is internationally recognized,” said Bùi Chính Nghia from the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry.
Meanwhile, in Quảng Tri Province, smallholders established a farmers’ association that obtained certification from the Council, allowing them greater access to markets. The Association of Quảng Tri Smallholder Forest Certification Groups now has links with IKEA, a global furniture company, that has pledged that 100% of the timber it buys worldwide will be certified by the Council by 2020.
It can be costly, time-consuming and technically difficult for small-scale timber farmers to comply with stringent certification criteria, particularly for poorer and isolated ethnic minority groups. IKEA is working directly with the World Wildlife Fund and research institutions to make it easier for communities to obtain certification.
“We help develop roadmaps and timeframes for our suppliers to ensure that 100% of our timber is certified,” explained Long Quang Hùng, an IKEA representative.
Both forest certification and sustainable forest management are priorities in Viet Nam’s restructuring of its forestry sector. The Quảng Tri smallholders have obtained both financial and technical support from the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, as well as from the World Wildlife Fund.
Although measures have been put in place to include more smallholders in the certification process across the nation, the uptake has been slow. To help reduce financial barriers, Doàn Viêt Công of the Quảng Tri association recommended that better-targeted policies could encourage easier access to credit that would help farmers during the growth period of trees.
Local authorities also have an important role to play in expanding the reach of forest certification.
“The involvement of Communist Party members and local governments plays a critical role in farmers’ engagement,” he suggested.
Viet Nam’s policy on sustainable forest management acknowledges the numerous values that forests have for current and future generations. The Government aims to enhance those values through various initiatives, such as a UN REDD+ pilot being carried out as part of a Sustainable Natural Resource Management project in Hòa Bình Province.
“Through provincial REDD+ action plans,” explained Wataru Yamamoto, a specialist in forest management and livelihoods’ development, “the project aims to build comprehensive livelihood strategies that support small-scale farmers in practising sustainable forest management and also address land allocation, support for livelihoods and encouragement of participation by the private sector.”
In practice, this partly means helping to establish village forest management boards to better patrol and protect natural forests, as well as supporting training in beekeeping and installing improved cook stoves that burn less wood. The project is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
“Non-financial gains, including a new appreciation of a forest’s carbon value, are the main focus of REDD+ in Viet Nam rather than monetary benefits,” explained Lê Hà Phương, a representative from the State Steering Committee office for the Target Program on Sustainable Forest Development and REDD+ implementation.
However, in terms of expanding the scale of REDD+, uncertainty remains whether these kinds of benefits will be sufficient incentive for smallholders.
What’s clear is that smallholders play a pivotal role in sustainable forest management in Viet Nam. Whilst certification and REDD+ are two different mechanisms, they share the same goal of rejuvenating forests through sustainable management by the millions of smallholders who rely on trees for their livelihoods. However, more needs to be done to address both local and institutional barriers.
This story was compiled from information provided at a workshop, SNRM-ICRAF Joint Workshop on Enhancement of Forest Management through REDD+ Implementation and Sustainable Timber Production: Knowledge and Experience Sharing, held on 4 May 2018, in Hanoi, Viet Nam, and coordinated by the World Agroforestry Centre and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The World Agroforestry Centre is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.