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25. Forest, population and povertyalleviation in Viet Nam
Dang Dinh Boi
[37]


ABSTRACT

Forest cover in Viet Nam has reduced from 44 percent in 1943, to only 16 percent in 1993. Mitigation efforts by the government, increasing awareness of people towards the role of forests and support from international organisations, have slowly increased the percentage. Viet Nam is the 13th most populous country in the world with 76 million people from 54 ethnic groups, and growing by a million every year. Rapid population growth, migration and urbanization in Viet Nam have placed pressure on the environment and forest. Vietnamese government has numerous regulations, articles and policies to maintain and conserve natural forest. State forest management has divided forest into three classes and managed by the state forest management bodies that are state-run enterprises (mainly for production forest) and management board (for special use and protection forest). Forest land has been allocated to households and organizations to invest in reforestation and management. Government shares responsibility with the communities for protection and management of natural forests. There are several programmes that have been implemented to alleviate poverty such as forest land allocation programme, 5 million ha reforestation programme (Programme 661), bio-diversity action plan, Programme 135 (development of remote and difficult communes), and the fixed agriculture and sedentarisation programme. The achievements are that agriculture production has rapidly increased, forest degradation has been gradually reduced and rural conditions have been positively changed. Monthly income per capita was also increased.

EXTENT OF NATURAL FOREST COVER

Forest is a precious natural resource in Viet Nam. In 1943, 44 percent of the country was covered with forests. Since then, forest area has been reduced dramatically because of numerous reasons including over-exploitation, unclear management policies, shifting cultivation, food shortage, clearance for arable land, spontaneous migration, and development of export-oriented industrial trees. In 1993, forest cover was only 16 percent (Table 1). Due to mitigation of the government, increasing awareness of people towards the role of forest as well as its contribution, and the support from international organizations, the situation is improving.

Table 1. Forest cover in Viet Nam

Source

Proportion of forest cover (percent)

1943

1973

1983

1993

Ministry of Forestry (1991)

43.0

29.0

-

-

Do Dinh Sam (1994)

40.0

-

23.6

27.7

World Conservation Monitoring Center (1996)

-

-

-

16.0

(-) = not available. This table is adapted from Table 2 of De Koninck (1999).

EXTENT OF FOREST COVER ON HILLS/VULNERABLE SITES

Vietnamese government has numerous regulations, articles and policies to maintain and conserve natural forest. However, uncontrolled forest cutting and illegal exploitation still prevail in many regions especially in the central highlands and middle part of the country. Forest fire is a persistent threat to both natural and planted forests. Since 1994, the government has closed the forest gradually. However this ban could not stop illegal felling and forest exploitation. Now the government allows limited forest harvesting in several provinces. This is similar to fuelwood production (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2. Gross output of exploited wood (1000 m3)

Year

1995

1997

1998

1999

2000 prel.

Out put

2793.1

2480.0

2216.8

2122.5

2570.6

Source: Statistical Year Book, 2000.

Table 3. Gross output of exploited firewood (1000 m3)

Year

1995

1997

1998

1999

2000 prel.

Output

29 828.0

27 356.4

25 490.8

25 229.6

24 842.7

RATE OF CHANGE OF FOREST COVER

During the last few years, The government has put in multidimensional efforts: social policy, propaganda, cultural, educational and economic development, sanction and reward to stem the loss of forests. As a result, cases of violation and loss of forest are reduced (Table 4).

Table 4. Area (ha) of forest destroyed by fire and over-exploitation

Year

1995

1997

1998

1999

2000 prel.

By fire

7,457.0

1,750.2

19,943.3

4,817.0

1,045.9

By over-expoitation

18,914.0

7,123.3

7,503.4

5,196.3

3,542.6

POPULATION IN VIET NAM

Viet Nam is the 13th most populous country in the world with 76 million people (population census, 1999). Although the growth rate is reducing every year, it was still 1.4 percent in 2001. In the past ten years, the population has increased more than a million every year. Rapid population growth, migration and urbanization in Viet Nam have placed pressure on the environment and forest. Viet Nam is the homeland of many nationalities. In the lowland and mid-land regions people grow wet rice. In the mountain areas, people grow wet rice in the valleys and corn or dry crops on terraced fields.

HISTORY AND SOCIO-ECONOMICS OF FOREST DWELLERS

There are 54 ethnic groups living in Viet Nam. People of various nationalities have found out different patterns to cope with nature, appropriate to specific regions. In the northern uplands and the central highland, people clear and burn jungle patches as a method of farming. With a sub-tropical climate, cultivation is chiefly carried out in summer and autumn. For acclimatization and raising of land utility rate, people, from time immemorial, have developed multi-cropping to generate further income and prevent soil erosion. Some cultivated patterns of some ethnic groups are listed below:

The Bo Y group: the Bo Y lives mainly on slash-and-burn agriculture. They rear plenty of cattle and poultry and are experienced in fish raising. Every year, when the rainy season comes, they go to the rivers to collect spawn and put them in their ponds and submerged fields.

The Bru-Van Kieu group: they live mainly on rice cultivation of burnt over land and in submerged fields. Hunting, gathering and fishing supplement thiei main source of food. They rear cattle and poultry. Basketry and palm mat making are their secondary occupations.

The Cham group: the Cham live in the plain, have a tradition of farming in submerged fields. They are experienced in intensive farming with irrigation, sowing seeds and applying fertilizers. The Cham are involved in business. Pottery making and cotton cloth weaving are two well-known secondary occupations.

The Chu Ru group: the Chu Ru adopted farming very early. Nowadays, they also develop sericulture and life is fairly stable. Apart from cultivation, they raise cattle, pigs, goats and poultry. They make bamboo and rattan articles and produce tools such as sickles, picks, and knives. Some villages are well-known for pottery. Hunting, gathering and fishing are secondary occupations in every family.

The Co-Ho group: the Co-Ho group cultivates rice on burnt-over land and submerged fields. They use farm tools such as axes, beams and sticks to dig holes to grow plants. The Co-Ho are good at horticulture. In the gardens, they grow jack-fruit, rice-fruit, banana, bobo and papaya. Many Co-Ho villages lead a static life and cultivate coffee, grow mulberry and rear silkworm.

The E De: the E De mainly practise cultivation on burnt-over land. Besides cultivation, the E De also practise animal husbandry, hunting, gathering, fishing, basketry and weaving.

The Gia Rai: they mainly live by cultivation on burnt-over land and terraced field. Ordinary rice is the staple food. Farm implements are simple, including machete, cleaver, picks and hoes. They also breed elephants. Men are skillful in basketry and women in cloth weaving. Hunting, gathering and fishing are secondary occupations.

The Ha Nhi: they live on rice cultivation on burnt-over land or terraced fields. They are one of the groups who have traditional experience in reclaiming terraced fields on mountain slopes, digging canals and building small dams. They use ploughs and harrows pulled by oxens and buffaloes in the fields. The gardens are often close to their houses. Animal husbandry, weaving of cloth, and basketry supplement then incomes.

The Kho Mu: the Kho Mu live on slash and burn cultivation. They mainly grow maize, sweet potato and cassava. Hunting and gathering are needed to meet daily needs, especially during the slump. The Kho Mu do not practise cloth weaving, so have to buy cloth and garments from other groups. Up to now, many Kho Mu families still lead a nomadic life. Their villages and hamlets are generally distant from one another and quite small. The houses are temporary and rudimentary with few pieces of furniture.

The Mong: the Mong live mainly as nomadic cultivator of burnt-over land. They also grow rice and corn on terraced fields. The principal food is corn and rice grown on burnt over land, and rye. Apart from these, they grow linen plants to supply fibres for cloth weaving and also medicinal plants.

The Muong: the Muong lead a sedentary life in moutain areas where arable land is available. The Muong practised farming from time immemorial. Wet rice is their main staple food. In the past they prefered sticky rice. Extra-occupation of the family is to exploit forest products including mushroom, amomum, sticklac, cinnamon, honey, timber, bamboo and rattan. Handicrafts are popular such as weaving, basketry and silk spinning. Muong women are very skillful in weaving.

The Thai: the Thai are experienced in consolidating edges, digging canals and building frames to fix gutters to take water to the fields. Wet rice is their staple food, especially sticky rice. The Thai also cultivate rice, subsidiary crops and other trees on burnt-over land.

MANAGEMENT OF THE FOREST

In Viet Nam, some kind of forest management exists in both governmental and private sectors.

State forest management divides forests into three classes:

State forest management bodies are state-run enterprises (mainly for production forest) and management board (for special use and protection forest). People plant trees on their farm land which is already allocated to them. The government decided to facilitate and encourage private companies to invest in forest plantations. Government shares responsibility with the communities for protection and management of natural forests. Forestlands are allocated under contracts for protection. A fixed allowance per ha per year has been allocated when households or communities signed a contract with the government (represented by the enterprises or management boards).

In Viet Nam mountainous area accounts for three fourth of the total area of the country. The people in this area face many difficulties such as poor infrastructure and communication networks. Income per capita is low compared to the country's average. During the last decade, the government initiated many policies and programmes in order to boost conditions in this mountainous region. These are creating an environment for communities to involve in forest management. Below are some of these programmes and projects:

Forest land allocation programme - Forest land has been allocated to households and organizations to invest in reforestation and management.

Five million ha reforestation programme (661 programme) - This programme has three objectives: to increase forest cover, to establish a raw material supply for wood industry, and to generate income for forest dwellers.

Bio-diversity action plan - This plan aims to increase protected areas including the establishment of new national parks, and to conserve important wildlife and flora (Decree 18/CP).

135 programme (development of remote and difficult communes) - The programme has three objectives: to improve infrastructure, to enhance human resource competencies of local government, and to generate income for poverty alleviation.

Fixed agriculture and sedentarisation programme - This programme promotes fixed agriculture practices to shifting cultivators and groups in the upland, and support upland communities in the development of resettlement areas.

Below are some international agency supported programmes:

Many other programmes and projects also contributed to improving the living condition and poverty alleviation in rural and mountainous areas (Table. 5). There were great achievements gained through these programmes together with policies on land, finance and credit, investment, health and education and with strong efforts made by the farmers themselves. Agriculture production has rapidly increased, forest degradation has been gradually reduced and rural conditions have been positively changed. Monthly income per capita has also increased (Table 6).

Table 5. Infrastructure in rural area, 1997-1999

Items

1997

1998

1999

Total number of commune

8845

8883

8917

Share of commune using electricity (percent)

79.9

82.9

85.9

Share of commune has car road to the commune (percent)

90.3

91.6

92.9

Share of commune has the car road to the village (percent)

77.2

78.4

79.8

Share of commune with health centre (percent)

96.4

97.7

98.8

Share of commune has primary school (percent)

97.9

98.9

98.8

Source: Statistical Year Book GoV (2000a)

Table 6. Monthly per capita income (1000 VND)

Items

1994

1995

1996

1999

Income (whole country)

168.1

206.1

226.7

295.0

Income in Urban areas

359.7

452.8

509.4

832.5

Income in Rural areas

141.1

172.5

187.9

225.0

* Source: Statistical Year Book GoV (2000a)

RESEARCH AND EDUCATION NEEDED

The following issues, related to research and education, need to be considered:

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dang Le Hoa. 2002. The impact of population on deforestation in Viet Nam. Master's Thesis of Economics of Development, University of Economics of HCM City and Institute of Social Study, the Hague, The Netherlands.

GoV. 2001. The achievements and challenges on natural resource management and rural livelihoods in Viet Nam's upland. Workshop proceedings. National Political Publishing House.

GoV. 2000a. The Statistical Year Book 2000. Hanoi, Statistical Publishing House.

GoV. 2000b. Viet Nam - image of the community of 54 ethnic groups. The Ethnic Culture Publishing House.


[37] Faculty of Forestry, University of Agriculture and Forestry, Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam; E-mail: boilamnghiep@hcm.fpt.vn

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