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Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

By Hoang Tao   November 10, 2021 | 11:11 pm PT
Villagers tasked with managing and protecting a forest in central Vietnam have succeeded in getting the nation’s first certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.
Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

An FSC forest management certification confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves biological diversity and benefits the lives of local people and workers, while ensuring it sustains economic viability.

Since 2017, Chenh Venh Village in the central province of Quang Tri Province has been tasked by the authorities with managing and protecting a natural forest of 676 hectares (1,670 acres) that stands next to the village, thus also referred to as the Chenh Venh forest.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

The village in Huong Phung Commune, Huong Hoa District set up a community forest management board with five members and three monitors to run seven teams that directly guard the forest. Each team has five members, including women. All of them belong to the Bru ethnic community.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

A team of villagers patrols the forest.

Villagers have volunteered to guard the forest without getting any payment in return. They say that they are paid in kind.

"Protecting the forest means we can benefit from products like bamboo and herbs. The forest protects the water source and the ecosystem and saves the village from storms and floods. It also creates good condition for crop cultivation," said Ho Van Chien, head of the forest management board.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

The villagers have received support from the European Union and the Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV) to improve their capacity in sustainable forest protection.

The MCNV has played an important role in helping the forest be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in October. The FSC is an international non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world's forests. The forest is the first one in Vietnam to receive the certification, which is valid for the 2021-2025 period.

The international conservation NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a founding member of FSC, considers the certification program to be "the best certification system to ensure environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests."

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Saplings in the forest in Quang Tri Province.

Sustainable management has facilitated the preservation of the natural forest’s diverse flora and fauna. The villagers can harvest bamboo, medicinal plants and herbs. Cutting down any other tree for timber is forbidden.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Ho Van Nhan, 28, smells a vine stem that he says can treat stomachache. He says the forest is home to many remedies and locals usually rely on them to cure common diseases.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Dong leaves, which are widely used in Vietnam to wrap food, is another forest gift for the villagers to use at home or sell in the market. Apart from the leaves, the dong plant’s stem can be used to weave baskets and other products.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Every month, the teams of villagers inspect the forest three to four times and report any evidence of misuse to local authorities.

Chien said villagers consider the forest sacred and do not dare to “invade” it.

"In the past, the forest used to be home to more wild animals, including the elephant and wild buffalo, but now, due to rapid development and the Ho Chi Minh Highway running just next to it, many cannot be seen anymore.”

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

The diameter of a timber tree that is at least 20 meters high.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

The MCNV is also helping villagers develop eco-tourism services in the forest to improve their income.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Chenh Venh Village has 20 hectares of rice fields that benefit from the forest, which retains water and saves the farmers the trouble of building any irrigation system but still have enough water to harvest two crops a year.

Made for each other: symbiotic forest-villager relationship wins international recognition

Tall bamboo grass in the forest. Villagers are allowed to harvest the fast growing bamboo for sale.

Nguyen Dinh Dai, chief of the MCNV office in central Vietnam, said thanks to the FSC certification, the bamboo from this forest fetches higher prices in the market.

 
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