Forest Protection Fund officers with local forest rangers talking with residents in Tả Lèng Commune about forest fire prevention. — VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung
LAI CHÂU — Thousands of hectares of forests in northern mountainous regions are being better managed and protected thanks to a new environmental services policy.
Phạm Danh Tuyên, deputy head of Tam Đường District's Forest Protection Management Board in Lai Châu Province, said payments for forest environment services had made positive impacts on people's lives, both economically and environmentally.
It had helped improve people's lives and raise awareness about protecting the forests, he said.
Lai Châu Province has more than 470,000ha of forests that were allocated to State agencies, local individuals and households to look after in 2012.
From 2012 to the end of 2019, the provincial forest protection and development fund has paid VNĐ2.19 trillion (US$94.7 million) to subsidise efforts to protect the forests.
In 2019 alone, VNĐ542 billion was paid to 78,754 households assigned to take care of the forests.
The average income of households that took part in the project increased from VNĐ2 million in 2012 to VNĐ6.5 million in 2019.
Tam Đường District has more than 68,400ha of forest.
Last year, households and individuals earned VNĐ52.5 billion from the Protection Forest Management Board for protecting nearly 40,000ha of forest.
The forest environmental services policy had attracted a large number of workers to protect the forest, said Sùng A Của, a forest ranger from the Mông ethnic minority group.
Working as an administrator in Tả Lèng Commune, Của often visits local residents to raise awareness about forest prevention and the need to cut vegetation to avoid forest fires.
He also shows people how to register to plant trees in order to improve their incomes.
In the past, forest protection and fire prevention faced many difficulties due to limited public awareness.
Deforestation for cultivation and illegal logging were still a problem, Của said.
People in Tả Lèng Commune were observing regulations on forest protection now thanks to the forest protection fund, he said.
"This could be the driving force for locals to protect the forests and prevent forest fires," said Của.
Over the past three years, Tả Lèng Commune has not recorded any forest fires or illegal deforestation, increasing the coverage ratio by more than 66 per cent.
In addition to helping people change their habits, the policy has also contributed to improving the lives of ethnic minority groups, creating jobs and higher incomes.
Afforestation also helps people earn more money and raises a sense of responsibility about forest protection.
Giàng A Tủng from the Mông ethnic minority group is from one of the families in Phìn Ngan Xin Chải Village that have been planting trees to cover bare land and hills.
In 2015, he was offered 1,600 táo mèo seedlings (also known as sơn tra (Docynia indica), a kind of apple).
After five years of cultivating 1,4ha, he is hoping to harvest 300kg of táo mèo this season, which he will be able to sell for VNĐ6,000-10,000 per kg.
“In the past I mainly planted maize but was economically efficient. Now táo mèo provides an income for my family. It's not a lot but it helps to reduce the economic burden,” said Tủng.
Deforestation, forest fires and violations of the forest protection law had decreased since the forest environmental services policy was implemented in Lai Châu Province in 2012, according to a provincial report.
In 2011, the number of violations hit 257 cases.
In 2019, 172 cases were detected.
This had contributed to increasing the forest coverage ratio in the province from 41.6 per cent in 2011 to 50.16 per cent in 2019, improving the ecological environment, the report said.
According to Nguyễn Bá Việt, deputy director of Lai Châu Province's Forest Protection and Development Fund, the policy had helped local agencies at all levels and residents raise awareness about the significance and importance of forest protection and development.
Villages that were assigned to protect the forests had set up teams to regularly inspect them and issue protection regulations.
The management of fund for forest environmental services was being strictly implemented and transparent, Việt said. — VNS