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Community-based forest management brings hope to ethnic minorities in Quang Binh

August 20th, 2014 by Posted in Sinh kế nông thôn/Rural Livelihoods

Written by Vu Tien Hong – Information and Communications Coordinator/ Oxfam

For many years, the forest had been parts of Nguyen Thi Thao’s and her family’s life. It was the source of water they drank everyday. It made the air they breathed so fresh. It was where her kids spent their childhood playing in the wood. But she had never felt the ownership of it

Thao had seen illegal lumberjacks passing by with piles of wood being freshly cut down. She had also seen the forest being overexploited to meet the growing needs of the commercial market. However, all she and other villagers could do was to report it to the local authority. But they were often too far and reactions were slow.

In terms of economic life, for generations, Cao villagers lived near the forest, but they had never been allowed to either use any products or develop their livelihoods from the forest. Many of them had to migrate to cities in search for jobs.

Things have changed, since Cao villagers were given the 50-year ownership of the forest. The Oxfam funded program, which has been implemented by Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Research and Development (CIRD), has helped claim the rights to managing the forest near their communities for local Ma Lieng ethnic minority people in Quang Binh Province, granting them the permission to utilize forest products and build their livelihoods in a sustainable way.

At Cao village, residents have begun to grow taro plants for sale in the local market. Acacia trees will be planted after the seedling process is completed in a few weeks, and weeds are cleared. Also, together with villagers, the CIRD Team is already exploring other ways to help people with better livelihoods and income generation from the woods.

Thao talked about it with smiles. From the top of the hill, she looked far to the end of the 232.24 hectares forest land that she and other villagers are going to manage, envisioning a green that would span down to the foot of the hill.

“It will be very different in a few months,” Thao said. “It will help our villagers with better livelihoods. So, we will try our best to protect it for the next generations to use as well.”

In Uyen Phong Village, Chau Hoa Commune, Tuyen Hoa District, villagers launched a party celebrating the official hand-over of the management of 52.55 hectares of forest land. A prayer had been held at two temples near the forest where local people worship the god and the goddess of the woods.
So far, CIRD has assisted several Ma Lieng and Kinh communities in Quang Binh to claim back the rights to forest management. Apart from advocating for the control to be transferred from state-owned companies to communities, CIRD has provided trainings to local people on how to effectively and sustainably preserve, develop and exploit forestry products for their livelihoods.

“Not only does it help improve the life of people, with this three-year project, we aim at better protection of the environment and water sources, as well as preservation of local cultures that have been attached to forest use for centuries,” said Ngo Van Hong, CIRD’s Director.

The official recognition of communities’ rights to local forest also means ethnic minorities in Ke, Cao, and Chuoi villages as well as Kinh people in Uyen Phong now have access to fairer sharing of local natural resources.

Villagers say besides positive economic effects the change has brought about, the good parts of the community-based forest management model also are that residents have the opportunities to build relationship, getting much more bonded together, since they now share responsibilities and benefits through co-managing the forest.

Thao said, she hopes once the trees are grown to be exploited, and other products like taro roots are ready for sale, her family of seven can increase their income without having to roam around in nearby cities for seasonal jobs.

“I already feel more secured now,” Thao said.

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