HA NOI — Viet Nam is aiming to improve the quality of its forest and their productivity during the next five years.
Farmers tend saplings in Ngoc Quang Commune in the northern province of Phu Tho's Doan Hung District. — VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung
The State hopes to boost forest coverage, but acknowledges that it will be a tough task.
The Forestry Sector's Support Partnership's annual meeting held yesterday in Ha Noi was told that forests now cover 39.5 per cent of the country's area, which has significantly contributed to improving and protecting Viet Nam from the effects of climate change.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hua Duc Nhi said the country had managed to increase its forest's area by 0.36 per cent a year during the past five years, from 37.7 per cent in 2006.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's regional senior forestry officer Patrick Durst said Viet Nam's contribution to forest coverage was "very encouraging".
"For the first time ever, we [the world] are slowing down the pace of deforestation in many countries, and in some key countries, including here in Viet Nam, forest coverage is increasing," he said.
The Vietnamese Government will increase the size of its forests during the next five years to make greenery account for 42 per cent of the country's area by 2015.
Nguyen Nghia Bien, director of the Forestry Directorate's Planning and Finance Department, said the future task would not be an easy job.
"In easily accessible areas, we have already planted trees, but now only the very difficult and remote areas are left," said Bien.
The director said it was a must to improve the quality and production capacity at plantations and in natural forests.
"Now we're concentrating more and more on forest quality – how to enhance the health and the vitality of the forests and the richness of the forests, including bio-diversity and benefits for the local people," said Durst.
According to MARD, the forestry sector's production value increased by 4 per cent last year against figures from 2009. Total export turnover in 2010 reached US$3.55 billion, almost a 30 per cent increase over 2009.
Furniture became the country's fifth biggest export staple, while 300,000 jobs have been created in the export-based timber processing sector.
Nhi said the goals for the country this year were to increase production by 4.2 per cent, which would earn $3.8 billion in export turnover.
However, Nhi said the sustainable management of forests was by no means an easy job.
"We should never think reforestation and taking care of forests will make us rich, but we are doing this for the sake of the environment," said Nhi.
Viet Nam's forestry sector will spend an ample amount of time this year drawing up plans for the second phase of the UN's collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD). Viet Nam completed the first phase in stellar fashion as one of the participating pilot countries.
Pham Minh Thoa, director of MARD's Science and Technology Department, said the continued REDD plan and a good policy framework would grab the attention of donors.
Norway has planned to provide Viet Nam with $100 million in non-refundable aid, the highest financial assistance the Vietnamese forest sector has received. Viet Nam would also give top priority to building up a Measurement-Report-Verification system, which they committed to building at the COP 16 (UN Climate Change Conference) in Cancun.
Durst said Viet Nam was "showing leadership in programmes related to the relationship between forest and climate change, such as UN-REDD".
Improving forest law and enforcing governance, and ensuring that trade involves legal sources of timber is also very important for Viet Nam, he said.
"Viet Nam is at the forefront of those activities because the country is very involved in importing and exporting timber and good products," he said. — VNS