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Forest land allocation presents challenges

Update: April, 11/2012 - 09:52


A farmer in the central province of Nghe An's Tam Duong District grows acacia trees on his allocated forest land. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha
HA NOI — Stakeholders who were allocated land designated for forestry purposes made use of only 20 to 30 per cent of that land.

The figures were made known by deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)'s Department of Forest Management Trieu Van Luc at a workshop to assess forestry land allocation policies held in Ha Noi yesterday.

Luc said many State-owned enterprises managed large areas of forests, but only made modest profits, and if the land was managed by People's Committees at commune level, the situation was even worse because there were no resources available for management and protection activities.

Half of the land designated for forests has been allocated to State-owned enterprises, but just 27.5 per cent to households and individuals, which as Luc put it ‘failed to take advantage of a huge resource'.

Another problem was that many localities failed to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the land they were allocating to farmers, which made it difficult to punish those who lost forests or illegally used them for other purposes.

Professor Le Ba Toan, dean of HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry's Forestry Department, said based on a study that crossed six provinces, he observed that the majority of the natural forests allocated to communities were degraded, formerly forested lands severely impacted by intensive and/or repeated disturbance, while the existing support mechanism for farmers appeared to be of limited use.

"Farmers are not benefiting from the forests so they are not really committed to protecting them," he said.

He also pointed out that the allocation process was still not equal to everyone and in some cases, localities failed to plan ahead sufficiently.

Policy expert Vu Long from the Institute for Sustainable Forest Management and Forest Certification said the progress of forest land allocation was slow.

"The allocation process has only occurred on paper but not actually on the fields," he said.

He said the resources tax on products from natural forests such as timber was high, well beyond the financial capability of households in mountainous areas.

Luc from the Department of Forest Management conceded that the relevant policies lacked consistency and were overlapping, adding that they did not encourage people to get involved in the forestry industry.

As of December 31st, 2010, there were nearly 14 million hectares of forests in Viet Nam, covering 39.5 per cent of the country. — VNS

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