We often hear about fencing garden, and never or rarely hear about fencing forests. However, there is a fencing forest arising in the community of Ngải Phóng Chồ village of Cao Sơn commune, Mường Khương district, Lao Cai province. With efforts of the 93 households, each contributed one and a half workday; 4 hectares of forest have been firmly hedged and protected.
Chống Đồng Chính forest was fenced up and protected since 2017 new year festival
The 93 H’mong ethnic households of Ngải Phóng Chồ village settle approximately 2 km far from the Cao Sơn communal centre. Ngải Phóng Chồ villagers live and engage closely with five community forest areas, which are named Chống Đồng Chính (or Youth’s forest), Pó Chua Mỉnh (Rocky mountain for horses), Chống Póng Nình (edge of falling from a horse), Tháng Dề Chơ (valley of white rock) and Nả Giống (primary forest). Of the mentioned forest areas, Chống Đồng Chính is a natural, rich forest containing big wooden trees. This forest used to be allocated to the Youth union, though the whole community on the basis of customary law enforced treatment against violation. Therefore, villagers suggested returning that forestland to the right owner, i.e. community for better use and protection of forest. The other forest areas, such as Chống Đồng Chính, which contain no large trees are also protected and afforested by the village community.
Chống Đồng Chính forest is an extremely valuable property of the local H’mong people. The forest area is in between the two villages of Ngải Phóng Chồ and Cao Sơn. There are old big Tống Gúa Sử trees, which are seen as natural borderline. A recent strong gale has collapsed an old Tống Gúa Sử tree, which could provide wood for making tens of tables for a meeting room. Villagers listed other reasons causing fallen trees, including too old trees and mismanagement in keeping animals out of the trees. So, Ngải Phóng Chồ villagers think, discuss and find out the way to get support from surrounding village to protect the forest.
Leaders of Ngải Phóng Chồ, including elders and village head gathered villagers’ ideas and got an agreement of sharing a part of the wood from the fallen tree to the adjacent village of Cao Sơn. This decision helps to improve the community house of Cao Sơn village, and, in return, encourages the villagers to involve in fencing forest in order to prevent from free animals and trespassers coming from Cao Sơn village. Given the effect of customary law in prevention from violations, negotiation and sharing between the two villages could help to enhance their cooperation, mutual help and awareness raising.
Wood for sharing and supporting Cao Sơn village
For protection of Ngải Phóng Chồ forest, a strong decision was made, that is fencing forest firmly. The village provided VND 6.2 million to buy barbed wire and nails. Every household contributes labour to fix the fence. According to the village regulation, if a household does not contribute labour, it should pay VND 150,000 for a labour day to pay others who have time to work. A total of 83 members, including men and women have joint the fencing activity. Therefore, all the borderline of the Chống Đồng Chính forest has been fenced completely after a day and a half.
Chống Đồng Chính forest has been fenced to prevent from cattle damage
On our survey preparing for land allocation programme in Cao Sơn commune, we observed a hard working day of the villagers. Mr. Ma Sử, 37 years old, has just been voted as village head in the traditional New Year festival. Sử was very enthusiastically running from forest to meet and share with us about the community forest and show us the fencing activity. Though it was rainy, the road was slippery, there were a lot of mosquitoes and leeches, villagers were making their best effort to protect their property. Forests are essential and vital for wet rice in Cao Sơn commune in particular, and in Mường Khương district in general. Without forest, there would be shortage of water source, firewood and wood for making houses. Mr. Ma Sử calculates an equivalence of 5m3 of firewood provided for a household every year. Though villagers use electricity and gas for cooking today, they still need firewood for making wine, cooking food for pigs and keeping house warm at the same time. Mr. Sử releases that villagers do fencing and plant integrated trees in forests every year. According to him, if each household plants a tree successfully in a year, it should be a precious result.
We said goodbye to Ma Sử and the villagers at the site of fencing. Sử did not come to see off us on the main road because he needed to stay with the villagers to check the participants of fencing activity and make sure equality for the villagers’ contribution. His work is so hard and meaningful at the beginning of the year. We wish Ngải Phóng Chồ villagers and Sử a good work of protection and care for the forests, for their livelihood, and for others’ inspiration for forests at the same time.