CIRUM organized the event alongside the Vietnam Administration of Forestry Department (MARD). The round table was a response to growing concerns over gaps between community forest management in reality and the Law on Forest Protection and Development 2004. Organizers hoped to discuss these issues and foster recommendations for the Law for Protection and Development (now it is called Forestry Law) amendments that may bridge the gaps.
Ho Thi Kon, a Van Kieu ethnic woman from Truong Son commune expressed her concerns at lack of access to ancestral forest lands; “Our community used to have close connections with forests; however, since our forests were allocated for the state forestry enterprise we are blocked from forest resources for home use and very small land for cultivation”
Ms Ho Thi Kon / Photo: CIRUM
In response to these concerns, CIRUM expected the round table discussion to increase consultation of policy makers with local communities in order to improve overall policy and implementation. In order to achieve these changes, more round table discussions need to be helped in the future, identifying and discussing gaps in policy and the changing needs of communities. Policy makers from the Office of National Assembly, Central Government Office, MARD and VNFOREST attended and took note of concerns for the Forestry Law Revision which is started amendments.
The need for consultation of local people is rooted in their knowledge of and connection to the land. Mr A Duu, a Ja Rai ethnic and Ka Bay village leader, said that land allocation “has to be agreed by communities and approved by local authorities. Community forest land should not be allocated to state own companies because they are not capable of managing the forests.”
National Forestry experts such as Lu Van Que (From the Vietnam Fatherland Front) were also invited to participate, and also saw the need for forestry laws to address the root causes of land conflicts and make appropriate changes, as current management systems fail to care for and preserve forest land, “So far forests feed people much more than people nurture forests” said Que.
Mr Lu Van Que/ Photo: CIRUM
Local experts (LandNet) were able to clearly identify changes needed with the laws, and why those changes were necessary for local land management and the livelihoods of local people.
Mr Tran Quoc Viet, the former leader of Son Kim CPC, in Ha Tinh (LandNet) said that the diversification and local forestry species were keys to improving forest management: “Indigenous trees need to be planted in forests instead of mono-plantation of rubber for instance to diversify to forests; Local communities need support after FLAP for being able to manage the allocated forests sustainably; People who are not living within watershed but protecting forests, deserve to get paid for forest protection and management.”
Other LandNet vocalized the need for long-term and practical forest management policy, as well as increased inclusion of communities and protection of customary forest laws.
Mr Nguyen Khac Thu, LandNet expert, the former leader of Huong Son DPC in Ha tinh stated that forest classification for the use of forest land needed to be more considered because “conversion of protection forest to production forest has caused deforestation, decrease of biodiversity and land dispute. Inclusion of traditional cultivated land and forest land into national reserves has been caused serious land dispute and food insecurity.”
The success of the round table discussion was evident in the opinions of policy-makers, who agreed that such inclusive involvement of communities was needed. Mr Vo Dinh Tuyen, Central Government Office in forestry said that the “format of this round table discussion is practical and helpful for policy makers. MARD should learn from CIRUM to organize round table discussions for Forestry Law revision; It is worth for proposing a Chapter of community forest management in the Forestry Law; Customary law should be realized and legalized in Forestry Law.”
Mr Vo Dinh Tuy/Photo: CIRUM
The round table was possible thanks to the generosity of our donors; CARE International Vietnam and the European Union. CIRUM partners SPERI, RDPR and CIRD were also involved.