Spending much time on fieldwork and project assessment, I observed several concepts that were being misunderstood and thus may cause ineffective management or negatively impacts on forests in current situation of Vietnam. These are quite interesting topics and thus need further discussions and in-depth studies. ‘New’ thinking here simply means ‘thinking in a business way’.
- Community forest
- Traditional thinking: Local communities were allocated forests with the main purpose of protecting forest (as demanded by the government or whole society). In this sense, the government ignores the demand of local communities which include real benefits or incentives (timber, non-timber products and other ecosystem services) for local people to protect forest effectively.
- New thinking: Community forests need to bring direct benefits to local people to make strong economic incentives for long-term protection. Otherwise, high oppotutnity costs would still cause serious deforestation (conversion to other landuses) as happened in recent years (rubber, coffee).
- Plantation of sawlog timber
- Traditional thinking: Normally local people plant many trees per ha (3300 trees/ha) with expectation of doubling benefits from both pulp/woodchip (short-term) and sawlog (long-term) in the same area. Due to that thinking, they often leave their plantation with branches until 4-5 years which are normally too late for prunning and thinning. In the field, observations showed that hybrid Acacia trees branch at very early stage (after 4-5 months of planting) and require immediate prunning to have good sterm in the future. Similarly, thinning is treated wrongly in timely (too late), density (insufficient spacing) and individually selected (wrong trees) manner.
- New thinking: The appropriate density for sawlog plantation needs to be applied from the beginning. Good spacing from the beginning helps to bring sufficient nutrients and lights for rapid growth of young plantation. The quality and financial benefits would be much higher when calculating total revenue (see UNIQUE’s models).
- Payment for forest environmental services (current PFES)
- Traditional thinking: Protection of forest is considered as government’s duty and thus any payment related to forest protection is subsidized. Local people (and even state forest companies) perceive this source of payment as from ‘national budget’ (business as usual). In addition, if forest is not disturbed (visually) then payment is made as usual (no matter ecosystem services are better or not). In this sense, forest protection seems very vague since it didn’t answer the question ‘what’s being protected’ and thus couldn’t create a strong incentive for forest protection.
- New thinking: by nature, PFES is not from a subsidised budget (government-financed) but follows market-based approach or simply ‘you paid for what you received’ (conditionality). In current PFES, this market is not established yet since both sellers and buyers didn’t (or couldn’t??) meet each other to negotiate about crucial aspects of payment such as forest quality, rate of payment, time of delivery, mode of payment. In another word, sellers didn’t know what they are selling and whether the price is reasonable; similarly, buyers didn’t know how good the services are delivered and what need to improve if they’re willing to pay at higher price.
- Policy of logging ban from natural forests
- Traditional thinking: Deforestation was mainly due to logging; Therefore, logging ban would help to stop deforestation in general and effectively protect the existing natural forests.
- New thinking: As recently reported on newspapers, natural forests were destroyed mainly because of conversion, i.e. from forest to other land uses such as construction of hydropower plants, rubber and coffee plantation or infrastructure development. Logging is not a main cause of deforestation (in context of Vietnam) and thus only logging ban would not solve the problem. Conversely, logging ban could lead to disincentives for sustainable forest management by different companies and communities (CFM). Improvement (both design and implementation) of natural forest management policies, appropriate business models, technical supports… are among important aspects that need to bring in a picture to solve the deforestation story.
On the Vietnam Forest Day (28.11.1959/2017)