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32. Viet Nam

Country data

Total land area 1996 (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/% of total land


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-1995 (thousand ha)/Annual Change (%)


Population total 1997 (million)/annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1997 in %


GNP per person total 1995 in US$


*) Source of data: FAO - State of the World’s Forest 1999

General information

The country is administratively divided into 49 provinces, which are subdivided into 400 districts, and further into communes, with each commune containing a few villages. The economic development policy has been changed in line with the country’s move towards a market economy, and it is expected that the economic activities will change substantially.

Agriculture activities occupy 6.9 million ha, or 21% of total land area, provide a livelihood for more than two-thirds of the population, and accounting for about 40% of export earnings. During the initial stages of transition towards a market economy, the forestry sector played a prominent role in the economy and culture of the country, contributing 5.1% of the GNP, and 5% of the total exports.

Direct responsibility for the day-to-day management of the forests rests with the Provincial and District administrations. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for providing technical guidance and services.

The basic forest policy goals are to:

· meet the nation’s needs for forest products and sustainable environmental protection;

· increase social and economic benefits of forest resources through efficient utilisation;

· increase people’s participation in forest protection and utilisation; and

· improve the living conditions of the rural population through forestry development.

In 1988, a decision was made to allocate some forest lands formerly under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for transfer to non-State units. The amount to be transferred was initially 6 million ha, then increased to 7 million ha, and recently was reduced to 5 million ha.

National forest programme (NFP)

The Tropical Forestry Action Programme (TFAP) exercise was launched in November 1988. The TFAP Issues Paper and the Final TFAP document were finalised in August 1989 and May 1991 respectively, and an International Round Table meeting was organised in September 1992. The national lead institution during the formulation of the TFAP document was the Ministry of Forestry.

The TFAP exercise identified seven key issues and constraints as follows:

· deterioration of living conditions for the rural population;
· declining forest cover;
· lack of operational efficiency;
· decline in biodiversity;
· watershed degradation;
· wood imbalances; and
· lack of skilled man power.

The TFAP exercise proposed four main programmes and fourteen sub-programmes as follows:

· Institutional strengthening

Restructuring of the Ministry of Forestry

National planning capability

Training and education

Research and extension

· Environmental protection

Protection of forest ecosystem

Protection forestry

· Forest management

Wood industries


Non-wood products

Natural forest management

Forest plantation

· Forestry in land use


Community forestry


The TFAP exercise identified 28 priority projects for immediate implementation with an estimated total cost of US$ 475 million. Support from partners, particularly donors, has been considered substantial, coming from Sweden, Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, UNDP, FAO, WB, ADB, WFP, EU, and WWF. Regional Programmes/Projects have also provided support, particularly on training, methodology, policy formation/formulation, study tours, and information sharing among developing countries. The support covers several activities including:

· Intensification of capacity for national forestry planning;

· Training and education in the forestry sector;

· Conservation of wildlife and biological diversity;

· Land use in the watershed;

· Social and community forestry;

· Decentralised planning;

· Reforestation of denuded and degraded lands;

· Environment training and preparation of biodiversity plan;

· Establishment of a social forestry centre;

· Research;

· Wood energy.

Substantial Government investment has also been made in the following area:

· management and protection of protective forests to support irrigation and hydro-power stations development;

· plantation, management, and protection of forests on barren hills and wastelands; and

· protection and management of national parks and natural reserves.

Three major documents were produced to support strategic thinking for the implementation of the TFAP:

· Renewal of strategies for forestry development (May 1993);

· Economic realities to consider in developing strategies for forest land use (August 1993); and

· Report on land-use management and land-use planning (September 1993).

The National Programme for Upland Development (also known as Programme 327), established in late 1992, is still operating. During 1995, the Government allocated about US $ 60 million for the Programme implementation, which was carried out through 1200 projects, operating within the geographical limits of districts. The projects within the Programme aim to increase income levels for all households through improved land use practices, including components of social and infrastructure development such as school construction, health stations, minor roads, markets, etc.

The Programme was initially led by three Ministries, i.e. Labour, Social Affairs, and War Invalids, and backed by the State Planning Committee. In 1993, the overall guidance of the programme was transferred to the State Planning Committee, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Industry, and the Committee of Ethnic Minorities and Mountain Issues will be the implementing agencies of the projects.

Policy, legislation, and institutions

In 1995, the Prime Minister decided to review the activities of Programme 327, including the organisational structure. This resulted in the broadening of the vision of the programme to include a social and economic development programme for upland areas, involving several ministries, focusing on the conservation and restoration of natural resources by the local people. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, Ministry of Forestry, and Ministry of Water Resources were merged into the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The overall targets are the following:

· Management of 9 million ha of forestland in order to protect biodiversity and environment.

· Management of buffer zones surrounding protected natural forests, including agro-forestry on denuded hills.

· Management of natural production forests, reducing logging intensity.

In January 1994, a decree concerning land allocations to be managed by organisations, households, and individuals for long-term forestry purposes was promulgated. As the follow-up to this decree, five million ha of forest areas have been allocated to be managed by about one million families living in upland areas. About 8,000 extension workers are now working in this field.

Changes in the forestry sector and policy should be seen in the context of the on-going transition in the political, economic, and social spheres in Vietnam. In brief, the policy foundation for this transition has the following components:

· An open door policy, particularly towards the neighbouring South-East Asia countries, resulting in Vietnam joining ASEAN;

· Reduction in the size of the Government structure as the result of moving toward a market-oriented economy;

· Decentralisation of planning to provinces and districts, combined with strengthening the institutional capacity at the central level to implement the overall reform process;

· Restructuring of the economy, with reduced Government involvement in production, and increasing the role of households and the private sector.

This transition has been quite successful. Without experiencing serious disturbances, rapid economic advances have been achieved, including the following:

· Inflation has been brought under control;

· There has been rapid growth in the Gross National Product, with a 6 to 8 percent annual growth rate achieved for the past few years;

· There has been rapid growth in exports, initially rice followed by other commodities, and the market was broadened from mainly socialist to other countries, in particular to South-East Asian and European countries;

· A balance was achieved between exports and imports;

· Increasing flow of overseas investment, including loans from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and other institutions, and from direct commercial investment.

However, the formulation of a comprehensive regulatory framework has lagged behind. Thus, the administrative system is still weak, and the human resource-base is not well enough trained to operate in the new policy framework. Notable important issues are the following:

· As part of the national reform process, the forestry sector is in a strong position to initiate work with a renovated policy framework for the sector. A new forest law, i.e. the Forest Protection and Development Act, was promulgated on 19 August 1991, and key subsidiary decisions and decrees were issued, including a decision on the provision of funds for long-term investment in the development of forest resources (1992); a decision to create a programme for the development of upland areas and ethnic minorities (1993); and a decree on the allocation of forest land to non-State units (1994).

· The country’s capacity to formulate suitable policies for forestry development was improved. Previously, policies were directed toward the forest resources; nowadays, rural people and food security have been given a higher priority.

· A long-term national programme for the re-greening of bare hills and the protection of forest resources was initiated in 1992 within the framework of the renewed national policies, and based on the technical conclusions reached during the implementation of the NFAP. The programme is unique, since it is set up expressly to bridge the gap between the macro- and micro-levels in the present context of rapid national change. The key characteristics of the programme are the following: a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach; the protection of biodiversity and sustainability; people’s participation; combining top-down and bottom-up approaches; applying decentralised planning methods; and strengthening the national capacity in mobilising local resources and absorbing external support.

· Other important issues are:

The timber exploitation ban in specialised-use forest and forests reserves, and also the limits put on logging, which was announced in April 1992;

Enhanced awareness of politicians and decision-makers of the important role of forests for the environment and economic development;

Strengthened communication and co-operation among sectors dealing with forestry development in the country;

Establishment of an Information Unit to improve co-ordination, communication, and co-operation among donors in support of forestry development.

The Government’s decision to ban the exploitation of timber in natural forests represents a package of comprehensive socio-economic and technical solutions towards protecting natural forests, while accelerating reforestation to ensure short- and long-term environmental and social security. It reflects the Government’s commitment to respond to Agenda 21 of UNCED 1992. The immediate objectives of the decision to ban the exploitation of timber are:

· Consolidating the protection function of forests through stricter control of the existing protection forest of 9.3 million ha, and establishment of forest plantations, so as to increase the forest coverage to 43%.

· Contributing to the creation of job opportunities and income generation, thereby improving the living conditions of 24 million people living in and around the forest areas. Support will be provided to farmers to establish 3 million ha of timber plantations.

· Meeting the demand for fuel wood.

The important activities which will be carried out to achieve the above objectives includes:

· A ban on forest products collection from protected areas, and restrictions on the harvesting of non-wood forest products in critical watershed areas for 30 years;

· Prohibition of commercial logging in the remaining natural forests in Northern Vietnam, south-east of the South Mekong Delta, and in the Red River Delta;

· From the year 2000, the total timber volume allowed to be cut will be 300,000 m3 per year. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is the responsible institution to approve the logging sites.

A meeting concerning improving aid co-ordination in the forestry sector was held in Hanoi, September 1995. At the meeting a draft paper concerning the Concept of a Co-ordination Group for Forest Development in Vietnam was discussed. The meeting also discussed a paper entitled Framework for a Forestry Development Strategy for Vietnam towards the year 2010.

In 1995, an “Information Unit” was established with assistance from GTZ/Germany to develop a database for all projects funded by donor agencies, the national budget, and NGOs. This database would be used as a platform to discuss the concept of the establishment of a Consultative Group on Forest Development in Viet Nam (CGFV). This Group was created in September 1995.

The overall goal of the CGFV is to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of long-term investment in forest development in Viet Nam. The purpose of the CGFV is to strengthen communication, co-ordination, and co-operation between all parties in the planning, implementation, evaluation, and further development of the National Forestry Action Programme.

The composition of the Group is as follows:

· Representatives of the State Planning Committee;

· Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry;

· Representatives of donor agencies/countries; and

· Representatives of NGOs.

In addition, under the auspices of the Swedish-supported project: “Renovation of Strategies for forestry Development”, an International Support Group, comprising representatives from the key Vietnamese agencies responsible for the use of forest resources in the country and from international and bilateral organisations interested in supporting the sector, has become operational.

In 1996, the government of Viet Nam approached FAO for assistance in the revision of the forest policy. The reason was that the Forest Policy and Legislation was being overtaken by political and economic reforms, which had progressed to such an extent that significant revision and modifications had become necessary. A meeting was organised in July 1996 to discuss this assistance. An FAO support project TCP/VIE/6715: Support to Forestry Policy and Formulation and Legislation in Vietnam was approved. A National Forum on Forests was organised in Hanoi from 10-12 June 1998 to identify and prioritise issues which need to be addressed by the future forest policy, as well as to identify broad strategic measures to address the issues.

Five million hectares reforestation programme

In support of the reforestation target of 5 million ha up to the year 2010, Resolution No. 08/1997/QH10 of the 2nd Session of the 10th National Assembly and Decision No. 661/QD-TTg of the Prime Minister of 29 July 1998 were issued. These regulations stipulated that the Government launch the National Five Million Hectares Reforestation Programme (5MHRP). The overall objective of the programme is to reforest and rehabilitate 5 million ha of forest by the year 2010. It is the Government’s major effort towards sustainable forest management in line with the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21.

At the Consultative Group Meeting in Paris in December 1998, the donor community and the Vietnamese Government agreed to establish a Partnership Support Programme in support of 5MHRP. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoA) was signed in Hanoi between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and 15 representatives of the donor community and international institutions namely UNDP, FAO, EU, WB, ADB, JICA, JBIC, WFP, WWF, IUCN, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland. The objective of the MoA is to reach agreement on a formal partnership between the Government of Vietnam and interested donors, including NGOs, which will lead the Government and donors to a shared sector support programme for effective and efficient implementation of the 5MHRP on the basis of agreed policies, strategies, priorities and principles of implementation. The MoA is not a legally binding document.

A Partnership Steering Committee was established under Decision 855 QD/BNN-TCCB of 14 March 2000. A Partnership Secretariat was established under the International Co-operation Department.

In addition, several Task Forces have been set up as follows:

· Task Force I: Clarification of the 5MHRP

The objectives of Task Force I are to: a) review and assess the current preparation and implementation of the 5MHRP; b) present in detail the objectives and outputs, ways and means, and implementation structure of the 5MHRP; and c) define core activities, the relations with other national programmes as well as the limitations. It is expected the report will be submitted to the Steering Committee in October 2000.

· Task Force II: Forest Policy, Strategy and Institutions

The objectives of Task Force II are to: a) review and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current national forestry strategies and policies; b) based on the analysis, develop proposals for effective strategies and on how to revise the national forestry strategies and policies; and c) make contributions towards the development of a long-term vision for the forestry sector in Vietnam.

· Task Force III: Forestry Sector Investment and Assistance Needs and Partnership Support Structure.

The objectives of Task Force III are to: a) review and assess the future investment needs; b) recommend a financing strategy for sustainable forestry sector development and the implementation of the 5MHRP.

The second Steering Committee meeting was held on 22 May 2000 to discuss several aspects of the 5MHRP, including the action plans of the task forces, updating the information, status and progress of the project, and overcoming the problems faced.

The above shows that the partnership programme in Vietnam covers a wide scope of co-ordination aspects, including the preparation, planning, and mobilisation of partners to achieve a specific target.

Focal point
Dr. Le Van Minh
Director General, International Co-operation Department
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
2 Ngoc Ha, Hanoï, Viet Nam
Tel: 84-4-8437520; Fax: 84-4-7330752


It is not enough to do our best. Sometimes we have to do what’s required.
(Winston Churchill)

I am persuaded that every being has a part to play on earth:
to be exact, his or her own part which resembles no other.
(Andre Gide)

You get more of the behavior you reward.
You don’t get what you hope for, ask for, wish for or beg for.
You get what you reward.
(Michael le Boeuf)

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