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ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS AND PUBLIC POLICY
Community-based natural resource management: Case of Thai ethnic group in Hanh Dich commune, Que Phong district, Nghe An province, Vietnam
Submitted by: Pham Van Dung ID: 1165976
Submit date: June 24th, 2011
Introduction This research paper will discuss the role of the community in natural resource management, particularly land and forest management and protection in Vietnam. The paper offers a discussion of environmental discourses that are related to the impacts of state land and forest management policies. Though ethnic communities in Vietnam have developed their knowledge and institutional systems in community natural resource management for a long time, communities were not recognized formally as one of the land users until 2003. Even then, though communities were identified as land users, few communities could attain land title. Those policies have had consequences with communities and their members facing shortages of land and forest. Nevertheless, those resources are essential for sustaining local people’s livelihoods, protecting forest, and keeping their cultural values.
The paper is organized in three main parts. The first summaries some key environmental discourses, especially ‘sustainable development’, and introduces concepts of culture, customary laws and community-based natural resource management. The second part deals with resource management and related legal framework in Vietnam. The third part illustrates the role of community in land and forest use and protection through a discussion of a Thai ethnic community in Vietnam 1.
As a senior staff and a researcher of SPERI, I have involved in studying and supporting the Thai community, which is illustrated in the case study of this research paper. Information in the case study is either derived from SPERI profiles or my own observation and experiences.
93-95). Therefore. According to Wright and Kurian (2010. 285). Sustainable development and other environmental discourses Various environmental ideas. p. debates and discourses have emerged during previous decades. To achieve sustainable development. 402). it is better to understand the contemporary community and its role in managing common property than to base policy on Hardin’s (1968) notion of “the tragedy of the commons”. this discourse assumes that “economic and environmental beneﬁts can be simultaneously generated”. ‘Prometheans’ consider nature as resources.Part 1: Literature review 1. 2005. 631). equity. Nowadays ‘sustainable development’ becomes a dominant discourse in the environmental debate (Carruthers. so they cannot soundly respond to the environmental constraints (Dryzek. and urges environmental protection. 2001. pp. 402). but misunderstanding of common property may undermine efforts to strengthen community-based resource management. pp. p. community and collective action are important environmental factors. and cooperation. p. Agrawal (1999) argues that Garrett Hardin and his followers’ judgement on resource degradation “served to (mis)guide policy” (p. so as to ensure sustainable development to meet the needs of present and future generations (ibid.1. ‘Administrative rationalists’ could not deal with environmental problems well because of their emphasis on expertise and failure of inclusion (ibid. 51-52). It encourages wise resources use. just for exploitation. In fact social bonds and community institutions are significant factors for minimizing individualism and its consequences of the overuse and exhaustion of resources. 2 .
p. That is a foundation for not only internal. 3 . p. p. although government claims may damage the incentive to practise sustainable community resource management (p.1. 2006. 2011. Vandergeest. Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) CBNRM is “a way of increasing community participation in natural resource management at the local level” (Vandergeest. 30). pp. 382). 73-74). Many scholars support customary land rights and land reform to serve sustainable forest management (Lynch and Alcorn. 377). p. 323). p. land and forest tenure are essential factors in CBNRM. 1994. 1995. 379). p.2. Lynch and Alcorn (1994) argue that local people may practically decide on resources even if the state ownership is claimed (p. 380). p. p. Colchester. 1995. customary law in resource management and protection Culture. 35. Local land owners “had the political. but also external interactions and norms. p. and legal concepts (Franz and Benda-Beckmann. 80) emphasizes that effects of community-based management are positive for biodiversity. That is reasonable. Over a long period of time indigenous people have developed and attained profound awareness of the ecology and human-nature relationship (Lynch and Alcorn. 59). and culture become ‘ecologically attuned’ (Flannery. 384. responsibilities. it is necessary to secure community property rights (p. 2006. 1994. Therefore. The weakening of communal land rights and emergence of fragile individual land rights dilute traditional resource management (Colchester. 1999. 1. Merry (1998. p. Land rights. because land and forest rights offer good incentives to a community to preserve their resources and ensure their livelihoods in a sustainable way. pp. Cultural perception of ownership embeds rights. spiritual and moral authority to engage with the environment” (Ross et al. 1995. 65-70. 344). 1994.389). Colchester (1995. customary law and their relation have been defined and explained by many scholars. Cultural values. Plant.3.
4. 1995. 2006. a set of ideas embedded in relationships that are historically shifting” (p. Taylor. 66). 72). 347. religious practice. Promotion of local knowledge. In order to deal well with decision-makers and outsiders. 2011. 4 . 30) affirm the existence of legal pluralism. 368). 635. and customary law contribute fundamentally to resource management and protection. p. 2003. Many governments have recognized and translated the notion of community-based forest into law (Sikor. Formal legislation and paternalistic attitudes often overlook the diversity of local institutions. 208). of which customary law is fundamental. 71). “[i]ndigenous land was transformed into government and settler title” (ibid. p. 252. The management arena thus fails to include indigenous voices (ibid. 2006. 880). 1999. and customary rights for the sake of forest protection (Darlington. Tree ordination in Northern Thailand is a good example of the promotion of local cultural values. Ross et al. 1998. p. People set up communal norms and institutions for collective decision and resource management (Agrawal. p. While scientific elites and modern sciences became a hegemonic belief system (Ross et al. p. p. p. 2006. 228). 339) thanks to successes and effects of traditional institutions. p. p. p. traditional institutions.880) and Franz and Benda-Beckmann (1999. knowledge and ownership (Tyler and Mallee. Interaction between statutory law and customary law in resource management There exist the gap and overlapping between statutory and customary systems because the formal system tends to homogenize the legal framework for resource management (Peluso. 2011. Vandergeest. Merry defines “customary law as a cultural construct with political implications. 1. p. 325). p. it is essential to strengthen community leadership and allow people’s voice to be heard (Tyler and Mallee.
p. and strength of community. Early Vietnamese kingdoms establish administrative systems since the first centuries A. 2006. Community rights and customary tenure systems should be recognized (Wright. 322. values.D. To clarify the role of CBNRM in a more specific dimension. 8). p. 2006. interaction and challenges to CBNRM remain critical. resource management constraints. p. 2011. 75-78. Tyler. 24) should be raised to respond to the adaptable knowledge. Though indigenous communities have founded their own concepts of 5 .2006. hunting and gathering in Southeast Asia since the first millennium A. Ross et al. The alienation of the community from their inherent resources for the sake of economic business results in a loss of interest and concern for community. so as to ensure local people’s sustainable livelihoods. Arguments about community rights (Vandergeest. 2006.D. pp. 527) and encouraged for the improvement of sustainable resource management. p. and even political conflicts (Colchester. p. Pre-colonial and colonial periods (before 1945) According to Poffenberger (1990.1. 383). p.1. Historical review of land and forest management in Vietnam 2. 1995. people had probably located and had been practicing swidden cultivation. 355. Tyler. 182). Though CBNRM has revealed successes and been recognized. Part 2: Forest management and related legal framework in Vietnam 2.1. the following part will analyse forest management and related legal frameworks in Vietnam. 1994. p.
national laws do not favourably recognize their tenure (ibid.1. 38). bureaucracy and coercion resulted in the failure of the state programmes (p. With the rhetoric of “land reform” and radical measures. 161). and individual land user rights were introduced after the decollectivization.3. Forest cover in Vietnam dropped from 43% in 1943 to 29% in 1975 because “400 state forest companies and 150 state wood processing enterprises” were the main actors of forest exploitation (Eccleston and Potter. Independent and collective time Though the government successfully claimed large forest areas under national ownership. Centralization. rotational shifting cultivation. 85). 2003. displacing local communities.land tenure. Individual land leases were accepted. 1990. 51). Since then state management and extraction of forests have been accelerating hastily (ibid. 2006. 8). p. 1996. herbal areas were claimed as “barren” land and converted to state control. p. But the impacts from top-down control 6 . they could not introduce sustainable alternatives for using the forest (Poffenberger. However feudal state and outside force had not pushed strong impacts on traditional community forest management until the emergence of colonial rule in the mid-nineteenth century. 2. 9). 19).2. 37). p. 2. Almost all land. 1995. p. the government launched collectivization programmes during the 1960s after the expropriation of lands from owners of large land (Plant. many poor households lost rights to access (Rambo and Jamieson.1. such as swidden. Traditional land use for subsistence (An. p. state control of resources remains heavily persistent. p. p. Renovation (Doi moi) and post-cooperative (since 1986) Though decollectivization was launched in mid-1980s. forest and other production tools were transferred to state and cooperative control. As a result.
Among the future expected users. p. p. Community is defined by the law as “village-level residential community. 1996. 392). and did not take commercial logging or large-scale projects into account. However. so individuals or enterprises. pp. 393). Poor operation of State Forest Enterprises pushes pressures to millions of hectares of forest land under their control.2. 392-293). p. Legal framework in land and forest management in Vietnam 2. 2006. Section 3). traditional community institutions are potentially crucial foundation for community forestry development (ibid. 1996. 7 . 2006. community land rights have been obstructed and poorly implemented so far because of complicated procedures and the underestimation of the social and cultural values of the community. Many projects relying on foreign expertise. 17. misunderstood shifting cultivation as a cause of deforestation. p. Local initiatives were ignored.and free market weakened institutions of community forest management and also accelerated shortage of community land and forest tenure. 225). 2003). Rambo and Jamieson. Laws on land The most recent Land Law of 2003 aims at accelerating industrialization and urbanization. as primary forest cover has dropped down below 10% of the national area (Lang. and that undermined success of the development plan (Bryant and Parnwell. who are considered as “more (economically) effective” land users are given priority to get land rights (NAV. p. which ought to be transferred to other users (Sunderlin. which is considered the most ecologically severe issue.1. 2003.2. Community is recognized as a land user for the first time under this law (Article 9. Vietnam is still facing deforestation. 2. These are the acute remaining issues in “the development of community-based forest management in Vietnam” (Sunderlin. 162).
2006.2. 2005). and use of forest (NAV. Conventional top-down approaches by state agencies could include little local consultation and. local people gain poorly from that process (Lang. 2004) .2. 2003). it insists “economic development as the central task in the coming stage of development” (PMV. and the representative of the community should be the village head. p. Vietnam’s Agenda 21 issued by the Prime Minister in 2004 is aligned with United Nations Agenda 21 and international sustainable development. in many cases. Practically. application. where a wide range and various types of linkages which constitute a certain community exist. 8 . p. protection.which share common traditional customs or lineage” (NAV. 86). That is not suited to reality of cultural diversity. Law on forest protection and development Law on forest protection and development stipulates managing mechanisms.3. Circular 38/2007/TT-BNN requires not only consent. Though the Agenda rhetorically considers environmental protection as indispensable. An. it is not consistently implemented in reality. 2. 2007). rights and obligations of forest users in management. which an ordinary community cannot afford.2. 2. 2004). Vietnam’s Agenda 21 seeks to “[s]trengthen the State management system of equitable use and protection of forest resources. and plan of forest management from community. Though participation is mentioned in Agenda 21. 226. 1996. development. involving active participation of community”. That imposes considerable expenditure. but also forest inventory procedure and professional assessment of the forest situation (MARD. Law on environmental protection The Law on Environmental Protection provides main principles for environmental relations (NAV.
1. income disparity. high forest area per capita (see Annex 2). and environmental problems emerge. Lohmann.3. State and private businesses prefer to convert forest land to monoculture cash crops (Colchester. Impacts of state enterprises and private companies on land and forest management Impacts on forest management and exploitation caused by state and private sector is a critical issue. 315.128 people living in the commune. Colchester. 2011). p. p. 1995. most of whom are indigenous Thai ethnic group. and cultural diversity is negatively impacted (Wright. p. Part 3 will discuss a particular case study. p. The commune shares borders with Laos to the west (see map in Annex 1). Hanh Dich commune has relatively low population density. Beck and Fajber. Part 3: Case study of customary law and forest management of a Thai ethnic community in Central Vietnam 3. There are 11 villages and 3. 33. 1995. Modern administration and market mechanisms have stressed considerable impacts on traditional communities and their natural resources. Therefore the local population is not yet facing highly constraints of land and forest shortage as those in other 9 . Nghe An province. north-central Vietnam (SPERI. Currently. When resources are commercialized. Natural and socio-economic setting of the community Hanh Dich is a mountainous remote commune of Que Phong district. 1995. 23). p. pp.2. 1995. Technocratic governments accelerate forest destruction to serve the elites instead of ensuring benefits for an increasing mass population (Lohmann. 2006. 11). social gaps. which reflects local response to solve problems caused by such impacts. 525. 1994. 300-302).
Thai ethnic people have a strong sense of community spirit (ELM. select an owner of the worshipping ceremony. History. and first settled in Que Phong and surrounding districts in 15th century (ELM. especially for forest areas under state and private companies (ibid). Dong is a traditional cemetery of the village. Lak Sua is a holy tree belonging to San sacred area. 2008). Traditionally each village should have common sacred spaces. 2008). Once every year. 3. and Muong Boc Dai (beings under earth) (ELM. Local people believe that Lak Sua and other trees at San and Dong areas should be strictly protected for sacred reason. such as Lak Sua. local people are increasingly facing a lack of cultivating land and forest due to the land right claims to large forest areas by the state protection board. that should be placed in western area of the village. then gather and enjoy a community event at San area. community members should contribute offerings. However. cultural values.localities do. The 10 . and Dong. such as population growth and forest exploitation by outsiders. and customary law The Thai ethnic group migrated from northern Thanh Hoa province and Laos. Muong Din (secular world). Some clans settled in Hanh Dich commune 200 years ago (TEW. The community has a saying: ‘Hit khong song chan’. Therefore each traditional community had been keeping certain forest areas very well before the recent impacts from outsiders (ibid). The rapid forest degradation is alarming. which means a community member is supposed to abide by both systems: law and customs. This tree is a symbolic spot. 2008). are also considerable. 2003). which describes three layers of worlds: Muong Then (paradise). on which the first Thai settlers had attached their clothes to worship local spirits and apply for the community settlement. San.2. Other factors. and private companies. Thai people maintain a traditional universal vision. state forest enterprises.
3.spirit of a dead person can reach Muong Then whenever that person has completed human duties.4. a Vietnamese non-governmental organization (NGO) and its successor organization – Social Political Ecology Research Institute (SPERI) have obtained 11 . Therefore. with a cooperative sense and mutual assistance (ibid). NGOs approach to forest management and protection 3. resources. and abundant knowledge of resources and cultivation. 2003). Otherwise the spirit is believed to hang about as a nomad. That forces everyone to try to become a good member of the community. 3. Traditional cultivation and local wisdoms Thai people traditionally combine slope dry rice and wet rice terrace agriculture. but also respected by local people. and recently generating small-scale electricity (ibid). Cultural learning and adapting. They constitute the village elders and the traditional leadership (TEW. They have plentiful knowledge of using forest non-timber products. Thai people have been harmoniously co-existing with nature for many generations. and the children of that person accomplish funeral procedures required by the community customary law. rice husking.4. Towards Ethnic Women (TEW). especially herbs. On the basis of belief system.1. A recent field study released that local Thai people preserve 17 different rice varieties (SPERI.3. Thai people are experts in using water flow effectively for fish raising. 2008). Herbal healers (both men and women) are not only knowledgeable in herbal medicine. bottom-up approach Starting from learning cultural values of the local community. customary law. especially forest and water are protected well in a traditional way (ibid).
Participatory land allocation. TEW staff found that a large forest area was under state management. Through research. sharing local knowledge. People got knowledge of their forest and land areas. Base on local people’s needs.understanding and shown respect towards community values (see Section 3. It began with learning and adapting to the people’s needs and initiatives. Study tours.2 and 3.4. TEW supported land allocation programme. and lessons drawn are not merely shared within community.050. 11. then solving conflicts within and between community and outside actors. study tours. successes. rights and obligations toward land because of their active participation in forest exploration and demarcation.360 ha of forest land. and integrated cultivation were also supported (SPERI. 2003).3 ha of the communal forest land was managed by a state enterprise. which were allocated to 360 households and 16 local mass organizations in Hanh Dich commune (TEW. 2003). so as to take back 100 ha of forest from Phu Phuong state forest enterprise to local control. but also with other communities. 2009). Lessons from community herbal forest management and protection 12 .2. The communal leaders and people made an effort to lobby. failures. and the understanding of the needs and suggestions from local people (TEW. which can offer them long-term rights with forest land certificates. knowledge exchanges are good opportunities for people to initiate common actions that provide the foundations for various networks (ibid). The objectives and strategies of every supporting project are based on bottom-up approach. That resulted in confirmation by land certificates of long-term use of a total 3. Local people’s knowledge. and various discussions on customary and statutory laws on land.3). 3. Land allocation support was carried out in 2003. for instance.
even scripts on stones. 169). and practice of customary laws remain a critical 13 . p. it tends to serve economic elites rather than peripheries (ibid. which claimed their forest land rights. forest tenure. So far community herbal forests are protected well though surrounding areas are under pressure of exploitation and degradation (HDHMG. 2003.As well as other interest groups. state forest protected boards and national parks remain large areas of forest (see Annex 2). Base on the suggestions and the needs of herbalist group members for protection and use of some forest areas under communal management. Poor cultural sensitivity and prevalent ethnocentrism among the mainstream imposes bias about ethnic people and an intention to introduce majority Kinh values and technologies to ‘modernize’ ethnic groups (Rambo and Jamieson. especially administrative top-down approach to ethnic development. Communal authorities understood that they could rely on the group strength and herbalists’ reputation to protect forest and fulfill their responsibilities. carried out inventory of herbs. and relations with other actors (SPERI. the group leaders made and sent an application to communal authorities. the group of herbal medicine have set up regulations to clarify members’ rights and responsibilities. the herbalist group demarcated the area. That also causes a critical obstacle to decentralization and CBNRM. p. and attached regulations and sign boards. Obstacles and possibilities of cooperation between customary law and statutory law in land and forest management and protection. 2009). 2009). 166). momentum. operation mechanism. and behaviour of outsiders. Nationally. Cultural sensitivity heavily influences vision. Coping with this trend by way of community and local people’s land rights. 3.5. which contain numerous species of herbs. Even when certain decentralization and reallocation of resources happens. Upon the forest allocation decision made by the communal authority.
the government should apply forest allocation process in a flexible way. Lessons and success of Thai ethnic community herbal forest in Hanh Dich commune become a model and a potential alternative to administrative and economic rationality. The procedure should involve results from community-based forest inventory rather than purely from expertise. it is critical to challenge the authority and the role of environmental bureaucrats. It has also reviewed the important role of ethnic communities in natural resource management and protection. There is a clear need for decentralization and reallocation of land and forest to local people’s direct management. Conclusion This paper has explored the scholarship on environmental discourses and provided an overview of policies and laws on forest management. That encourages different agencies to be interested in learning and combining customary law with formal system. it is hard to obtain a win-win situation in dealing with environmental (particularly forest) protection and poverty reduction. Therefore.challenge. the state requirement and new trend of decentralization and promotion of ethnic culture are introduced at national and local level. Without local people’s involvement. However. In order to replicate this pilot model. for the sake of environmental protection (explicitly land and forest in this case) and local people’s livelihoods. 14 . so as to reduce administrative cost and make forest allocation to community feasible.
15 . learning and respecting cultural diversity are required. The increase of research groups working with indigenous peoples is promising for learning and building up suitable models of upland development (Rambo and Jamieson. In this process. 2003. opportunities will arise to enable actors from the two systems to ensure sound resource management and so assure both state interests and community rights. respect and willingness to cooperate. p. 170).For the improvement of ethnic development programmes. the emphasis of merely one direction – either statutory or customary law – is not sufficient. Based on improvement of understanding.
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Annexes Annex 1: Map of the research area Nghe An province 19 .
757.38 5. SPERI (2011).084 1.iges.017.vn/default.org/wiki/V%C6%B0%E1%BB%9Dn_qu%E1%BB%91c_gia_%E1%BB%9F_Vi%E1%BB%87t_Nam http://enviroscope.nghean. http://www.800 0.76 5.org/downloads/6_11_ky_yeu_hoi_thao__1_.gso. . (***) Data from website of Nghe An province: http://www.aspx?tabid=134&News=1430&CatID=13 (2010).792.or.719.946 2.425.024.5 na 375.833.100 14.vn/v35/default.02 6.123.700 na 9.3 24. households (ha) Forest area allocated to communities Protected area by (basically managed state protection boards (ha) Special use forest (basically managed by national parks) (ha) Forest area managed by state enterprises (ha) Forest area managed by private companies (ha) Que Phong district (**) 63.955.27 15.29 Vietnam (****) 86.vn/default.59 200.66 Notes: (*) Data from report of Hanh Dich communal herbal medicine group (2009) and SPERI (2011).monre.019. and http://cmsdata.880.57 Nghe An province (***) 3.211.asp?m=2&s=33&p=1 .943 83.gov.iucn.31 3.118.PDF http://www.gov.vn/Default.jp/modules/envirolib/upload/370/attach/p69-73_Vietnam.4 2.aspx?tabid=386&idmid=3&ItemID=9835 . .054. and forest of different levels) Hanh Dich commune (*) Population (persons) Natural area (ha) Forest area (ha) Land area per capita (ha/person) Forest area per capita (ha/person) Forest area allocated to individual.3 6.500 3.wikipedia. the Government. and http://www.gov.gov.vn/cttdtcp/en/about_vietnam08. Wikkipedia: http://www.174. http://vi.aspx?tabid=428&cateID=4&id=4340&code=PUKSAV4340 (****) Data from websites of the General Statistics Office.nghean.489 189. (**) Data from website of Programme 135: http://chuongtrinh135.53 0.124.600 33.128 18.17 3.288.900 na na 13.850 911.49 20.4 49.808 0. http://www.aspx?tabid=386&idmid=3&ItemID=9834 .Annex 2: Data (population.pdf 20 .543 158.728.html .649.vn/infm/default.38 0. land.chinhphu.98 2.asp?m=2&s=34&p=1 .vn/infm/default.gov.gso.105.506 2.
Annex 3: Some pictures of the research community activities and forest Landscape of the research area Traditional house on stilts of Thai people A Thai women and handicraft work Women from different ethnic groups. different localities are sharing color dying knowledge A ceremony for granting of land right certificate Herbalists in front of a sign board on a rock at the gate of the community herbal forest 21 .
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