More opportunities for forest owners in sustainable forest management

Monday - 27/07/2020 14:33
In recent years, due to various reasons, forest area across the country has been rapidly reduced. One of the most important measures currently of particular interest to the international community as well as individual countries, is the development of sustainable forest management (PFM) and forest certification.
FSC acacia plantation
FSC acacia plantation

Forest certification is about  the issuance of a written certificate for the SFM process in line with certain international and Vietnamese recognized criteria and principles. The nature of forest certification is SFM. Timber harvested from certified forest areas not only complies with laws relating to legality, but also with environmental and social regulations (for example, assessment of environmental impacts and biodiversity). Therefore, certified wood is accepted and widely circulated in North American and European markets. Forest certification is of great importance to the environment, society and economy. In economic terms, forest certification aims to improve business efficiency and increase income, through which forest management activities of forest owners (enterprises, household groups, etc.) are recognized and trusted. Forest owners have professional and sustainable access to potential markets at home and abroad. At the same time they have better access to financial and technical service providers. Socially, in order to be granted forest certification, local communities and stakeholders must participate in the process of SFM planning, contributing to reducing the pressure on forest resources. Forest owners recognize and respect traditional rights of indigenous people to forest resources and workers' rights, thereby improving working conditions and living standards. On the environment, SFM will conserve the forest's biodiversity, water resources, land and forest ecosystems.

In Vietnam, SFM and forest certification are one of the five areas of the National Action Plan on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Quang Tri is a pioneer in mobilizing household forest owners and cooperatives to participate in afforestation with FSC certification. In 2014, the Association of Smallholder Forest Certification Groups (SFCG Association) of Quang Tri Province became the first organization in Vietnam to represent forest owners of households and cooperatives participating in reforestation with recognized legal status and FSC certification. Quang Tri has 253,465 ha of forest land, of which more than 143,000 ha are natural forests and 110,000 ha are plantation forests. By 2019, in Quang Tri more than 19,000 ha (nearly 14%) of natural forests have been allocated to households and communities for management, and about 55,000 ha are acacia plantation forests owned by households and cooperatives. The role of households and communities is increasingly important in the protection, development and sustainable management of forests.

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With this advantage, the PROSPER project recently launched in Quang Tri opens up many opportunities for local forest owners in SFM. The project is funded by the European Union in Vietnam and MCNV with a total budget of 800,000 Euro for the period of February 2020 - February 2023, approved by the People's Committee of Quang Tri Province under Decision No. 461/QĐ-UBND dated February 19, 2020. The project is implemented through capacity development of the SFCG Association of Quang Tri with a focus on capacity building on SFM, promoting linkages of FSC and non-timber forest product supply chains for households and cooperatives who are involved in planting large timber forests with FSC certification, and communities and households participating in the sustainable management of natural forests. It is expected that 60 sub-associations/groups of about 3,000 farmers who are household forest owners, cooperatives and communities in Quang Tri province will benefit from the project. After 3 years of implementation, the project will expectedly increase 1,500 hectares of planted forests with FSC certification and 600 hectares of natural forests to implement SFM. The overall objective of the project is to increase the participation of household and community forest owners in forestry development, addressing and mitigating the impacts of climate change in Vietnam. Specifically, the SFCG Association of Quang Tri and its sub-associations, forest cooperatives, household groups and communities are promoted to contribute to the implementation of SFM, REDD+ and payment of forest environmental services (PFES) at all levels. The capacity of Quang Tri SFCG Association and its sub-associations, forest cooperatives, household groups and communities will also be developed in the two supply chains of FSC certified acacia and SFM certified tung oil.

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Although Quang Tri province has allocated to communities and households an area of ​​19,026 ha of natural forests, of which about 9,460 ha are paid for PFES, a lot of forest owners do not have many opportunities to benefit from the allocated forests. That partly limits the capacity to implement forest protection and management. With an area of ​​55,000 ha managed by households and cooperatives, Quang Tri still has great potential for mobilizing participation in FSC sustainable afforestation. While many community forest owners and households have not benefited significantly from the allocated natural forests, the benefits from non-timber forest products and benefit sharing payments from the Emissions Reduction Program in North Central Region (implemented from 2018 to 2024 in 6 Northern Central provinces, including Quang Tri) are potential opportunities to help communities generate stable income from forests and participate sustainably in the management and protection of allocated forest resources. The PROSPER project will contribute to the promotion of the Emissions Reduction Program. According to the assessment of the Quang Tri SFCG Association in 2018, the direct added value to forest owners thanks to FSC certification is about 5,000,000 VND/ha of acacia forest per year. The PROSPER project will contribute to increasing the area of FSC large ​​timber plantation for natural forest owners who are households and communities, supporting initiatives to develop the FSC timber plantation, promoting cooperation with the FSC acacia wood purchasing enterprises, and strengthening forest owners' capacity in forest resources identification and SFM.

Tung seed harvesting

In addition to supporting the sustainable development of large timber plantations, the PROSPER project encourages communities allocated with natural forests to perform sustainable management and exploitation of non-timber forest products such as bamboo trees and tung seeds to create additional income opportunities. Bamboo is one of the rich and potential NTFP resources. There are more than 10 commercially available bamboo species surveyed in Northern Huong Hoa area. Tung tree is an indigenous forestry species that yields seeds for the huge market in China. Tung seed brings significant income to the community in the harvest period from August to October each year. The PROSPER project supports the expansion of tung forests and capacity building so that community groups can participate more deeply in preliminary processing for the domestic market. Besides, the project also contributes to the promotion of ecosystem services and sustainable trading linkages. Tung oil products from Huong Hoa are manufactured and displayed on the shelves of Kohnan supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Bamboo products from Northern Huong Hoa are supplied to Hoian Roastery, an enterprise in Hoi An City. FSC acacia wood of Quang Tri is involved in IKEA's outdoor wood products worldwide. Businesses involved in these supply chains have established their own product requirements, but all are geared towards sustainable cooperation with farmers for social and environmental responsibility.

The implementation of the PROSPER project contributes to further promoting the achievements in SFM in Quang Tri, thereby increasing opportunities and income for local forest owners. Achieving the expected outcomes of the project requires close cooperation between the beneficiaries and stakeholders, as well as initiatives and management role of the local authorities.

Source: Hoai Nam/MCNV

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