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26. Forestry for poverty reduction in Viet Nam
Trieu Van Hung


Forest cover in Viet Nam over the last 50 years had reduced by almost half. The trend of natural forest degradation is still continuing as there are over 24 million people living close to forest, of whom 8.5 million are the ethnic minorities. Slash and burn, shifting cultivation and free migration are still practiced in these areas. In addition, forests are continuing to be converted for agriculture, including for the planting of commercial tree crops such as coffee, rubber and cashew nut. The demand for wood and forest products is high, coupled with increasing population, and increasing hunger and poor conditions in remote and ethnic minority areas, have led to further degradation of the forest resources. Vietnamese government has prioritized forest protection and forestry development, which are linked to poverty reduction through the deployment of guidelines under the "three stabilities": forest capital, production force, and livelihood for labor that includes matter and spirit; and "Socialization for forestry". Several hundred thousand farmer households have participated in plantation establishment. A few million have been re-settled in forestry production zones, such as the over 20 000 ha plantation in the Thanh Hoa province, and over 10 000 ha Cinamomum plantation in the Yen Bai province, they have assisted over 132 000 households with more than 800 000 people.


According to forest inventory up to the year 2000, the forest area in Viet Nam is 10 915 592 ha. Forest cover is 33.2 percent, of which natural forest area occupies 86.5 percent and plantation forest area occupies 13.48 percent. Total growing stock in the year 2000 was 751.5 million m3 and 8.4 billion bamboo culms; of which plantation wood is 30.6 million m3 and bamboo plantation is 96 million culms.

During the past sixty years, forest resources have become degraded seriously in Viet Nam. From the year 1943 to 1985, natural forest decreased especially from 1980 to 1985 at the rate of 235 000 ha annually. Increase in plantation forest did not compensate for the natural forest area lost. In the years from 1985 to 1995 both natural and plantation forest were increasing rapidly, therefore total forest area increased. In recent years, forests are well protected in Viet Nam due to efforts of the state. From the 1995 to 2000, forest area increased by 1.6 million ha, of which natural forest cover contributed 1.2 million ha and plantation forest

0.4 million ha. The forest has been rehabilitated by forest tending, protection and plantation. However, forest quality and productivity are still low, as forest products do not meet the requirements of the state. The number of high economic value trees such as Erythrophloeum fordii and Chukrasia tabularis are low. Non-timber forest products are reducing at a fast rate. Currently, the forest situation in some regions such as western high plateau, southeastern and Mekong river delta has deteriorated. The consequences are scarcity of fuelwood and forest products, land and environmental degradation, increase in floods and natural calamities.

Forest has been lost due to the following causes:


Viet Nam forestry sector is developing to serve the dual purpose of meeting the domestic requirements, as well as exporting of surplus wood (Table 1).

Table 1. Export of surplus wood






Export value (million US $)





Inspite of increase in export, the contribution of forestry to the overall economy has decreased (Table 2).

Table 2. Contribution of forestry to overall economy






Value rate (percent)





Compared to the total economic value in 1995, forestry production value has declined from 1.2 percent to 0.87 percent in 2001. In forestry, production value is concentrated in logging and forest products processing. From 1985 to 1999, production values were represented by 72.7 to 79.6 percent, 13.05 to 17.88 percent and 3.85 to 12.96 percent for forest plantation, forest tending and other activities respectively.

The government policy on natural extraction has reduced the authorized logging over time as shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Decreasing logging productivity, 1990-2003






Authorized logging
productivity (1000 m3)





Viet Nam forestry has transformed into social forestry in many ways such as farms, households and community forestry. In the late 1980s forestry production activities were governed more by marketing needs, including economic forest plantation, non-timber forest products utilization, etc. Although forestry sector only contributes a very small portion to the national economy in Viet Nam, it however plays an important role for the livelihood of the people living in forests.


The role of forestry for poverty reduction

Up to the year 2002, out of 82 million people in Viet Nam, 24 million were living in or around forests. There are over 8.5 million people belonging to various ethnic minorities in the high mountain areas close to forests. In the upland areas, harvesting and hunting in the forest are important minor activities. Although there is a rapid change in economy and society, wood, fuelwood and non-timber forest products still play an important role in the livelihood of these ethnic minorities.

Administratively, Viet Nam has 61 provinces and cities, and approximately 10 500 communes that represent 57.1 percent of mountainous, upland remote areas. The life in 1175 communes is very difficult. These are the poorest people and their living depends solely on the forests. On the other hand this group has adverse impact on forest resource leading to degradation. The importance of NTFPs to rural households in Viet Nam cannot be overlooked, especially its role for rural households and upland areas. For example, a study with Dzao and Tay communities living in the mountainous areas around Ba Be National Park, fuelwood, bamboo, fodders, forest vegetables, basic medicines and a variety of the life-enhancing products continue to provide essential and supplementary materials for livelihoods (Morris 2002).

NTFPs can create important economic opportunities for communities in remote mountainous areas, with often simple technologies for collecting, planting and pre-processing. For example, households in Bac Ha district in Lao Cai have begun to grow Amomun aromaticum, harvesting on average 200-300 kg of fruit per year and, in some cases, as much as 500-1000 kg, equivalent to 20-30 million VND, which is 10 to 20 times higher than rice cultivated on the same area (Nguyen 2001).

Viet Nam is one of top 10 countries in the world with high biodiversity and potential for non-timber forest products. However, NTFPs were not utilized fully and sustainable management of NTFPs is still limited.

Some results of the combination between forestry and poverty reduction in Viet Nam

Vietnamese government has initiated poverty reduction improvement of people especially those living close to forests. By the end of 1980's, the state laid down "Three stabilities' policy: forest capital, production force, matter life and spirit for labour". Forestry socialization was initiated to attract the participation of people to forestry activities. Several hundred thousand farmer households received rights to do their business on allocated land. Many successful national programmes are as follows:

Some questions that need to be solved regarding forestry and poverty reduction:


The Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam was established in 1961 by merging three institutes, The Forest Research Institute, the Forest Industry Institute and the Forest Economics Institute. The Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam is the main research organization on forestry and is under direct control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Forest Science Institute supports scientific and technological research, technology transfer, post-graduate training, and consultant services in various fields of forest science.

Regular staff of the Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam is 480, of which 26 are Ph.D and 20 Master degree holders. The Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam has seven research divisions, three specialized research centres, nine regional centres, three centres for technology transfer and technical service, eight functional divisions, etc. There are five laboratories, 4500 ha forest for research and many sites for joint research with various production units and National Parks. The Institute carries out a number of programmes at state and sectoral levels as well as socio-economic development projects. The Institute has contributed enormously to forestry development in Viet Nam.

Some of the issues on science and technology to strengthen the role of forestry in poverty reduction and forest resource sustainable utilization would include:


General Statistical Office. 2000. Statistical data of Viet Nam agriculture, forestry and fishery: 1975-2000, pp. 7-10. Hanoi.

Ha, C. C., De Beer, J. & Tran, Q. T. 2000. Non-timber forest products sub-sector analysis, Viet Nam. Hanoi. 43 pp.

MARD. 2001a. Forestry development strategy of Viet Nam 2001-2010. Hanoi. 75 pp.

MARD. 2001b. 5 million ha reforestation programme. Hanoi. 15 pp.

Morris, J. 2002. Report on an indigenous knowledge study in Ba Be. NTFP Project - Phase I.

Nguyen, V. T. 2002. Potential and current situation of medical plant resource source in Viet Nam.

Trieu,V.H., Nguyen, X.Q. & Hoang,C. 2002. Ky thuat trong mot so loai cay dac san rung. (Technical plating of some species for NTFPs). Hanoi, Agricultural Publishing House.184 pp.

[38] Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam, Dong Nagac - Tu Liem - Hanoi, Viet Nam; E-mail: [email protected].

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