Forests hold poverty solution
HA NOI — The forestry sector's biggest difficulty is to balance the relationship between hunger elimination and poverty reduction and its development, a conference heard yesterday in Ha Noi.
In an annual review meeting of the Forest Sector Support Partnership yesterday, Deputy Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development Hua Duc Nhi said that currently, 85 per cent of preserved forest area were located in regions which had high and average poverty rates.
Therefore, the country should pay much more attention to forest plantations and protection as they not only helped mitigate climate change but also reduced the number of poor households in key forestry areas, he stressed.
Director of the ministry's Forestry Department Nguyen Ngoc Binh said that provision of foodstuff in localities, especially in areas with high population density, directly affected forestry resources.
In contrast, natural forest area and quality were decreasing, which led to a reduction in forestry product supplies, while demand for the products continuously increased, he said.
To solve the problem, the ministry was seeking measures to mobilise financial sources and encourage economic sectors to invest in forest usage, development and management, Nhi said.
The ministry was also creating a favourable legal framework and improved investment environment to attract more foreign investment in planting industrial material forests, processing forestry products and technology transfers.
"Forests should become a commodity to be provided to local people but also a capital source for development," Nhi said.
To ensure benefits for forestry protectors, the Government decided to implement the Payment for Forest Environment Services project in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong and the northern mountainous province of Son La since the beginning of 2009. Viet Nam was the first ASEAN country to trial the project.
The policy helped boost forest protection, create a firm economic foundation to improve people's lives and raise people's awareness of forestry protection and development.
Last year, the project brought the two provinces VND77 billion (US$4.1 million). The money was allocated to forest planters and protectors and local people.
Le Thi Tam in the central province of Thanh Hoa's Ha Trung District said that her family was allocated 6ha of protective forest to plant pine and resin annually brought her family VND10-15 million ($540-810).
Her family also took advantage of forest land to grow fruit trees.
"Now, local people and I have become aware of the value of forests, as they not only bring economic benefits, but also protect the environment and prevent flooding," Tam said.
This year, Viet Nam would strive for a growth rate of 1 to 1.5 per cent in forestry value, export turnover of $3 billion and forest coverage of 40 per cent, Nhi said.
However, the sector should make more effort to reach the targets as it was predicted that unexpected climatic change and forestry exports were being influenced by the economic crisis.
Last year, only two Official Development Assistance project in the forestry sector were signed with a total capital of $10 million.
In the Copenhagen Summit on climate change, six countries including Australia, French, Japan, Norway, the UK and the US committed to support the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project with $3.5 billion, Nhi said.
It proved that the role of forests as a response to climate change was increasingly growing in importance, he stressed.
Viet Nam is one of nine countries implementing REDD, thus the support would make a significant contribution to the country in encouraging the community to protect forests, he added. — VNS