Vietnams mountains – how to get more trees

TroFaCo and our partner in Vietnam, ActionAid are wrapping up our project on participatory forest management.

Ms Nhan from ActionAid and Steffen from TroFaCo with forest ranger and a farmer, who is now operating a tree nursery

It has helped form many local forest management groups, who can work jointly with local authorities in planning and management of local forests, where communities own quite large parts.

As a tool for that, the project has taken TroFaCo’s verification system, with GPS- and time referenced photos, and added a few features. Smartphones, in the hand of a local community (or anybody else) can now draw contour maps of an area, using an app developed by the project. As Vietnam’s forest resource is fully digitized and available on a web-based platform, such contour maps can be directly used when the forest authorities do the official planning. Communities and forest officers sit down together and develop the plan, for the area managed by communities.

Now, a plan is one thing, but how does that lead to more forest? And benefit the global climate? And the local people? It does not..

So, the project also developed ways for communities to start producing on areas in the highlands of Vietnam that now are mainly empty. They have been cleared of forest long time ago. Often as a result of shifting cultivation – ‘slash and burn’ – or simply by unsustainable felling of the forest.

These areas can become home for millions of valuable timber-trees. And the timber is demanded by Vietnam’s large wood industry.

In foreground: Churcrasia planted by the project in a community plot, barren hills in background

But trees take a long time and farmers need income. So they cannot wait…. Well, in Vietnam and China there is huge demand for ‘clean’ food and other farming products (e.g. traditional medicine). So, the project put highland farming communities in touch with companies that are selling such products. That works! People now actively replant forest, while making a living off selling organic ginger, turmeric, ginseng, pineapples or other short-term crops. And when the trees can be harvested many years from now, their children or grandchildren will become quite wealthy.

TroFaCo is now looking for some funding to spread the idea a bit. Or rather a lot! There are social organisations in Vietnam that can take that on – such as the cooperative movement – but they need a bit of inspiration, technical knowledge and vision, for these value chains really to develop. TroFaCo hopes to be able to support this process till it can take off and develop ‘by itself’.

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