Bio-Human Ecology
Livelihood & Anthropology
  Publication details  
Inconsistencies in forestland mapping in upland indigenous ethnic minority communities in Vietnam
Author: SPERI
Publication Date: 21 October 2013
Pages: 33
Keywords: Community based forest land allocation, land conflict resolution, mapping, community mapping, land use planning, customary law, community forest, Lao Cai, Hmong, natural resource governance
By 31 December 2009, the total population of indigenous ethnic minorities in 67 provinces and cities of Vietnam had reached 13 million people - equivalent to 14.27 percent. Of which, 99.57 percent live in midland and mountainous areas, including the Northern mountainous and midland (54.68%), Central Highland (35.29%) and North Central and Central Coastal (9.6%). Most of the mountainous indigenous ethnic minority groups live primarily on forest resources and forestry related activities. For these populations, the forest and forestland  resources are not only production means with specific characteristics, but also have a very important role regarding poverty reduction, stability of the life, maintaining cultural identity, and ensuring political protection in rural mountainous areas.

As of 31 December 2010, Vietnam had 13,388,075 hectares of natural forest and plantation. This area has been allocated or contracted to different users for management and protection, including the Management Board of Special/Protection Forest (33.5%), community/village, households and groups of families (25.1% - equivalent to 3.3 million hectares), State Companies/Enterprises (16.1%), Communal People’s Committees (19.3%) and others (6%).

It is a paradox that in the midland and mountainous areas (i.e. Northern mountains and midlands, Central Highland, North Central and Central Coast) where most of the forest and forestland is, the ratio of indigenous ethnic minority populations who face the most difficulties remains highest. As of 9 May 2012, Vietnam had about 326,909 poor indigenous ethnic minority families in mountainous areas that do not have enough residential and production land. This number is nearly equal with that which required investments at the beginning of policy implementation (2002-2008). According to statistics of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, by the end of 2006, most of the 62 poorest districts of the country are in the mountainous border regions. The poverty rate here is 3.5 times higher than the national average. Populations in these poor districts are 2.4 million, of which 90 percent are ethnic minority households.

In this article, I will review and analyze the results of field studies and assessment of forestland management and use, as a basis for forest allocation associated forestland allotment under the Joint Circular 07/2011/TTLT-MARD & MONRE in the H’mong community in Lung San village, Lung Sui commune, Simacai district, Lao Cai province.

The project pilot was implemented via the cooperation between Simacai District People’s Committee, Lao Cai Provincial Department of Forestry and the Social Policy Ecology Research Institute (SPERI). The findings in this study hopefully contribute to shed light on questions related to:
  • The actual results and effectiveness of forestland allocation, mapping and land use planning in indigenous ethnic minority communities in upland areas;
  • Why ethnic minorities still lack  productive land for the stability of life and economic development, while the formal statistics show that these groups have been allocated about one third of forestland of the whole country;
  • Whether the land policies are still not proper or the implementation of these policies (forestland allocation, mapping and planning) needs to be adjusted? And
  • If these policies are not proper, what points should be adjusted, and what mechanisms and or approaches should be applied in order to ensure the allocation of forestland effectively?
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