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Sustainable forestry helps poor families earn better incomes

Protect the forest, then the forest protects the village

More than a year ago, a group of farmers in Quang Tri, with the support of MCNV, took the first steps in a sustainable and small-scale forestry project. They started to grow wood and produce furniture oil in a better way, in order to get a better market price and a more stable income. In addition, the farmers work together to manage and protect the forests against illegal logging.

Despite the outbreak of Covid-19 shortly after its launch and major flooding in central Vietnam in the autumn, much work has been done since then. This summer we will once again bring the Prosper project to your attention because we would like to help the farming families in the forest on their way.

“If our forest is affected, the people in our village will lose their water source and they will not have water for agriculture. The trees help prevent landslides and purify the air. For Van Kieu minorities like us, forest is so important. That is why we have a responsibility to protect it,” says Ho Van Chien (60 years old) as he lays his hands on a large old tree, in a natural forest at the foot of the mountains. “Every month, our forest protection teams go on patrol in the forest to check the condition of the forest plots. If we see signs of logging or someone cutting trees, we will chase them or contact local rangers to resolve the issues.”

On patrol

Mr. Chien is the head of the forest protection organization in Chenh Venh village in Huong Phung municipality. “In this 674 hectare forest area, there are 7 patrol teams with men and women who are committed to protecting the forest. The women protect the bamboo forest closest to the village and the men patrol more remote areas.” The teams are part of the afforestation and sustainable forest management project, which is co-financed by the European Union.

EU delegation visiting

On April 14-15, 2021, a delegation from the European Union (EU) visited three districts in Quang Tri, where the EU co-funded project Prosper is being implemented by MCNV and partners. The delegation visited several forest plantations, natural forests and a plant nursery and spoke with various forestry and farmer organizations. During the excursion, there was also time to meet some of the farming families participating in the project. The project will run from 2020 to 2023 and aims to help 3,000 farming families who manage a piece of forest themselves or in a cooperative.

In addition to the conservation activities, the villagers, with the support of MCNV, have already been able to plant many trees on forest land allocated to farming families for management. Last year, 51 families in Chenh Venh planted tens of thousands of tung trees and another native tree species that were in danger of extinction. Ho Thi Phai, Chien’s neighbor and member of the women’s forest patrol team, smiles: “Recently, my family planted Tung trees on an area of 1.5 hectares. Planting trees on bare hills helps to hold the soil and water. Moreover, after three years the seeds of the trees will provide us with income. Each family is busy with the harvest from June to September and sells the seeds to traders who make these into furniture oil. We can earn almost 10 million Dong (350 euros) with this. With this income, our lives will be better, we have money to buy meat and fish and for the education of our children.”

Ecotourism for extra income

With the support of MCNV, the forest management organization in Chenh Venh has now drawn up a plan with a series of forest protection measures. Maps show the current state and resources of the forest. A small ecotourism service has also been started close to a waterfall to earn some extra income. MCNV has helped to connect farmers’ organizations to find new buyers for tung oil, rattan and bamboo. With the help of MCNV, the collaborating farmers are trying to obtain a sustainability certificate, which will allow them to get a more stable price for wood and forest products.

Connection with processing industry

In the Huong Hoa region, with 40,000 ha of natural forest and 10,000 ha of planted forest, the local government is trying to encourage farmers to plant trees. Parcels of forest land have been allocated to communities and families. The families not only receive income from the sale of the forest products, but also a small contribution for their forest protection work.

The model that MCNV is initiating in Huong Hoa district is afforestation with native species such as Tung trees, which are good for the forest and provide seeds for extra income. We are working with a company that wants to open a local tung oil factory in the near future. That is also a goal: to help farmers to take good care of the forests as well as to connect them with companies. All parties benefit in a sustainable way.

MCNV’s program manager Nguyen Dinh Dai

What we ask you

The forestry project in Quang Tri helps farming families to better protect the forests in which they live while earning a better income from sustainable forest products such as acacia wood, tung oil seeds, rattan and bamboo. The EU supports this project with co-financing provided that we contribute a part ourselves. This year we still need € 25,000. We ask for your support for the poor farming families in the forests in Quang Tri. Thank you very much for your (extra) contribution!

For more information on the Prosper project, see our Magazine 2021-2 (in Dutch).