Vietnam is one of the five countries hardest hit by climate change, with its coastal region being the most vulnerable area. Community-based management and development of mangrove forests is an effective way to strengthen coastal resilience against climate change.
Vietnam has favourable conditions for mangrove forests to grow and develop.
Residents of Vam Ray commune erect a wooden fence to protect the mangrove forest in Kien Giang province (Photo: VNA)
Twenty nine cities and provinces nationwide have coastal mangrove forests and wetland. They include five coastal localities in the Red River Delta, namely Hai Phong city and the provinces of Quang Ninh, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh, 14 central provinces from Thanh Hoa to Binh Thuan, and 10 others in the southern region, namely Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Dong Nai, Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Tre, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau and Kien Giang.
However, the area and quality of this kind of forest are declining. The total area of mangrove forests in Vietnam is about 200,000 hectares, down 60 percent compared to 70 years ago.
According to Nguyen Quoc Dung, an official from the Forestry Inventory and Planning Institute, there are several reasons behind the decline of mangrove forests. They include the changing use of forest land for aquaculture, the overexploitation of wood and natural resources as well as environmental pollution and climate change.
Dung also mentioned the lack of mangrove forest management and cooperation, limited mangrove-related regulations and coastal erosion.
Other reasons include unsustainable livelihood of local people, the shortage of appropriate silvicultural solutions or suitable plant species to be grown. Meanwhile, science research also lacks enough attention.
At present, forest protection is facing difficulties due to the lack of synchronous technical solutions, inter-ministerial collaboration and sustainable financial mechanisms for the management and restoration of mangrove forests. More importantly, the activity has not yet mobilised community involvement.
In the central province of Thanh Hoa, thanks to the strengthened role of the community in forest growing and protection, the area of submerged forests has increased remarkably. Since 2007, with the support of CARE Vietnam, the model of community-based multipurpose mangrove forest planting has been developed in Nga Thuy commune of Nga Son district and Da Loc commune in Hau Loc district.
Nguyen Van Dinh, Vice Chairman of the Da Loc communal People’s Committee said the commune had 200 hectares of submerged forests prior to 2007.
Thanks to the support of domestic and international organisations, it has planted an additional 300 hectares, raising the total area of mangrove forests here to 500 hectares, Dinh said, adding that the locality plans to grow 200 hectares more from now to 2020.
Living in the coastal region, Vu Duc Thuan in Thanh Hoa province’s Hau Loc district understands the value of submerged forests to his livelihood. He has raised a total of 500 ducks with feed sourced from the forests, which has helped double his income.
“Thanks to the mangrove forest, I can save the money I would spend on food for the ducks,” Thuan said, adding that the ducks can eat snails found in the forest and produce good quality eggs.
The mangrove forest in the locality also helps protect the coastal ecosystem and benefits local people. When harvest is over, the locals can earn 50-100,000 VND a day from catching crabs or fish in the mangrove forest.
Nguyen Quoc Dung said to support the local people, the State has issued policies to encourage the community to join hands to protect mangrove forests by giving them the rights to manage, protect and benefit from the forests. “This is an effective way to restore and develop mangrove forests in our country in a sustainable manner,” he added.
However, the policies are still part of the general forestry guidelines. There should be separate policies and mechanisms for mangrove forests. Added to this, local people and authorities should be educated to raise the awareness of protecting and developing mangrove forests