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Locals work together to save Hoa Binh's protected forests

Update: September, 29/2014 - 08:41
Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve. — Photo thiennhien

by Vy Le

HOA BINH (VNS) — Local residents tell many stories about loggers and those who burn forest for cultivation, but people in Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve in the northern province of Hoa Binh have done the opposite, joining hands to protect forest in the reserve.

The reserve's management board, the forestry self-management board and the communal people's committee recently signed an agreement on forest protection and development. Under the agreement, local households, mainly belonging to the Muong ethnic minority, committed not to transport illegally chopped wood or work with illegal loggers.

In addition to protecting forests, the agreement helps local people by offering lending and technological investment assistance, as well as giving them high priority in local economic development projects and programmes, support in tourism activities and land to cultivate.

"My family, as well as many other local people's, started planting corn and cassava," said Bui Van Lin, a resident living in the reserve. "Our lives have become more stable."

Lin is a member of the forestry self-management board in the Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve. The reserve has diverse species of animals and plants, but until recently was plagued by illegal logging.

Before the reserve was established, the large, forested area belonged to local people. However, when it became a protected area, the reserve's management board took it over. Without much land to cultivate, local people cut down trees inside special-use forest to sell. Thinking the land was not theirs, they were unconcerned by the negative effects of these practices. The new preferential policies provide them with land to cultivate so they no longer have to exploit forest illegally.

"It took us more than one year to campaign and explain to relevant agencies and local people that the project could be implemented," said forest ranger Nguyen Binh Dinh.

The five participating hamlets organise regular group patrols. Households in the hamlets must patrol one or two days per month with members of the forestry self-management board.

Frequent patrols allow the board to detect violations more quickly. Patrollers can immediately stop violators, detain them and seize proof for a later investigation, or they can allow the board and People's Committee to deal with the violators.

Bui Binh Yen, director of the reserve management board, explained that while the project was still in the pilot stage, raising local people's awareness about protecting forests was an encouraging sign for the mountainous area.

Awareness was very low years ago, said Bui Van Tuong, deputy head of the self-management board in Khu Hamlet, Ngoc Son Commune, Lac Son District. People would sell wood, knowing the high value of many of the trees around them, in addition to using it for their own homes.

However, regular patrols by board members and local people curbed deforestation and illegal wood transportation. The forestry self-management board in Khu Hamlet seized 125 logs between April and June last year. The board in Roc Hamlet in Ngoc Son Commune also seized 23 logs.

There are four nature reserves in the northern province of Hoa Binh, covering 30,000 ha or 10 per cent of the province's total area. Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve is the largest with 16,000 ha, including 12,000 ha of protected forest. Established in 2004 and officially opened in 2006, it covers seven communes within Tan Lac and Lac Son districts. — VNS

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