Quảng Trị Province's local forest growers benefit from carbon credit sales

May 24, 2024 - 08:26
"Everyone feels happy when receiving the money," said Hồ Văn Chiến, one of those who received payment for forest carbon credits in the province.
A corner of a planted managed forest in the coastal central province of Quảng Trị. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Thủy

QUẢNG TRỊ — Local people are happy and excited to benefit from forest protection and carbon credit sales in the coastal central province of Quảng Trị.

"Everyone feels happy when receiving the money," said Hồ Văn Chiến to the online newspaper Vietnamnet.

Chiến, 64, head of the Community Forest Management Board in Chênh Vênh Village, Hướng Hóa District in the province, has participated in local forest patrols over the past eight years.

He said the management board, established in 2017, which was assigned to manage and protect 600 hectares (ha) of natural forest, was made up entirely of Vân Kiều ethnic people.

At the beginning, everyone was a volunteer.

The management board ran six patrol teams, each consisting of six or seven members and each team would have three forest areas to check, along established routes, every month.

When encountering strangers or signs of forest encroachment, the patrol teams would intervene, repel outsiders and report any issues to the authorities to take appropriate action, he said.

Due to strict protection measures, the forest was thriving, with many large-diameter natural trees and valuable species previously listed in the Việt Nam Red Book of critically endangered species, returning to inhabit the area.

"To be honest, we did not know anything about carbon credits before,” he said.

"We just did the task of forest protection because we thought that protecting the forest meant protecting the living environment for the next generations."

Then at the end of 2023, Chiến was told about carbon credits and took part in several training courses.

In February, the village received the first payment for carbon credits and distributed it to households.

Chiến said: “The money is not much, but it still is a motivation of local people to better protect the forest.”

Because of their results, the village was asked to protect an additional 200ha of natural forest, bringing the total forest area under the village's management to nearly 800ha.

Hồ Văn Kiên, a member of the Forest Management and Protection Board in Ruộng Village in Hướng Hóa District, said that the money from carbon credit sales was enough to make the local people to be more determined to protect the forest.

The province is one of six provinces in the central region piloting carbon credit sales and financial management under the agreement to pay for greenhouse gas emission reduction, according to Decree No. 107/2022/NĐ-CP issued by the Government in 2022.

Last year, the province earned over VNĐ51 billion (US$1.99 million) from selling carbon credits, with the money going to forest protection teams in villages and forest owners.

On average, each hectare of natural forest receives about VNĐ120,000 ($4.7) from carbon absorption and storage services.

The province has over 126,000ha of natural forest, including over 20,000ha managed by forest protection teams.

Green certificates

In addition to protecting natural forests, the province can sell credits from planted forests.

The province currently has over 26,000ha of trees which have been granted sustainable forest management certificates from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Việt Nam Forest Certification Scheme (VFCS) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Hoàng Đức Doanh, chairman of Quảng Trị Forest Certificate Holder Group, explained that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-governmental organisation, established in 1993, which issues directives to develop and manage sustainable forests worldwide.

FSC has strict criteria on which, if met, it will issue an internationally-recognised certification.

Việt Nam had its own standards, including 10 principles and 150 criteria based on FSC guidelines, he said.

In 2010, the province was the first locality in Việt Nam to be awarded the FSC Sustainable Forest Management Certificate.

Doanh said he still remembered the initial problems persuading local people to plant certified forests at that time, because they were only familiar with traditional planting.

The time needed for the new certified forests to grow was significant, it took only four to five years to harvest traditionally-planted wood, but it took up to twelve years to harvest from a certificated forest.

At that time, businesses were also hesitant because there was no price differentiation in the market between certified and uncertified wood.

Hà Sỹ Đồng, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said that in 2008, the province invited international organisations to evaluate sustainable forest management at the Bến Hải Forestry Joint Stock Company.

They provided a 300-page document of conditions that needed improvement to achieve FSC certification, he said.

The process of overcoming these challenges lasted for two years, when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Forest Stewardship Council re-evaluated the situation.

In 2010, the result was that about 95 per cent of the recommendations had been met.

Then Bến Hải Forestry One Member Co., Ltd became the first in Việt Nam to be awarded the FSC Sustainable Forest Management Certificate, he said.

From this model, certified forest planting was expanded to many other localities and from an initial 8,600ha of protected forest at the beginning of the scheme, there are now over 26,000ha.

According to Doanh, local people can now see benefits of planting certified forests.

Certified planted wood can be sold at higher prices, up to 12 per cent more than ordinary wood and businesses are often able to sign major contracts.

In recent years, markets such as the US, EU and Japan have increased the requirements for sustainable products, imposing new regulations on imported goods in order to stop illegal logging and prevent deforestation.

Therefore, when wood from certified forests was exported, it met the conditions to enter all markets, he said. When there were stable markets for wood exports, the livelihoods of farmers would also be stabilised. — VNS