“Ethnic Minority Communities should regain equal rights to forests” become an outstanding message, which has been repeated at the Northern Regional Workshop to contribute to the revised draft law on Forest Protection and Development. The workshop, which was co-organized by Vietnam Administration of Forestry of MARD, Lao Cai provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and CIRUM, was held in Lao Cai province on 7th April 2017.
Mrs. Ho Thi Con (Van Kieu ethnic group) presenting at the workshop
In order to create free space for every participant to express their own view, inspiration, or constraint for an insight discussion, three thematic discussing groups were set up and took the longest working time within the workshop. The first group consisted of community representatives/LandNet from different ethnic groups: Thai, Mong, Dao, Tay, Van Kieu; the second group involved forestry officials and legislators at national and local levels. They are from Central Government Office, National Assembly Office, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Central Committee for Economic; and the third group was for representatives from different forestry enterprises/companies and Forest Management Boards (state owned organizations). All of the three discussing groups have worked hard (without tea break) to discuss their practical issues and problems they are suffering.
The workshop was mainly focused on the rights of ethnic minority communities over forest resources respecting values of customary law in traditional forest use and management in relation with problems that state owned organizations/companies have been causing. As a result, three presentations from three groups presented their own issues and recommendations. It is really helpful that there are common recommendations stated that communities should be recognized as community forest owners and thus, have the rights to benefit as equal as other forest owners. This is what ethnic minority people want to regain.
In addition, communities’ representatives recommended recognition of clan that should have ownership of forest as other forest owners. Beside this, the workshop recorded 45 speeches and another 6 presentations focusing on the rights of village community, especially ownership of land and forest, solutions for land overlapping and land conflict, mechanism for cooperation in forest protection, forest protection budget and forest environment service fee.
Community representatives from Northern, Central and Central Highland regions recommended that the revised law should ensure local community’s right to protect forest, bio-diversity, to access forests, practice their cultural, ritual ceremonies, to collect non-timber product and wood for domestic use, and to raise animals. There should be clear stipulation to involve local people in contribution to formulate forestry-related mechanism, policy and regulation.
Overall view of the workshop
It is recommended that watershed managed by community should be classified as a type of protection forest for community management. Legal provision for boundary should require writing local names in cadastral dossier and mapping system, so as to help local officers and villagers easy to recognize and use. Legalized stipulation should ensure local community and households who depend on forests to have land and forest allocated or rented, so that they can promote production and maintain their cultural, religious practices.
Participants suggested streamlining procedure for households and community in collecting timber from watershed and production forests for domestic use. Procedure should be in compliance with community regulation and approval of local forest rangers and communal authority.
Members of the revised draft law who attended in the workshop carefully listened to the participants’ idea contributions and recommendations. They promise to try the best within their authority to reflect the contributions in the revised versions of the draft law and relevant decrees in the coming time.