From humble beginnings in Central Vietnam, community leaders create a national model for sustainable forestry
What started as a gathering of small forest plantation owners in Central Vietnam has grown into a model of sustainable forestry that the Deputy Prime Minister recently recommended be replicated nationwide - a stunning achievement that was achieved with the support of the Provincial Government, WWF and IKEA.
It began a few years ago, when a group of small forest plantation owners in Thua Thien Hue Province decided they had more to gain from working together. They created the Hoa Loc Sustainable Forestry Cooperative, a group bringing together plantation owners committed to sustainable management practices through Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification that would help scale up their businesses and give them better access to financing and higher end markets.
Under the guidance of the Forest Owners Sustainable Development Association of Thua Thien Hue Province (TTH-FOSDA), with the support of the WWF-IKEA partnership in the Greater Mekong region, the cooperative has become a huge success and something for the community to be proud of. That pride continues to grow as the group recently welcomed a high profile visitor: the Permanent Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Truong Hoa Binh.
The sustainable forestry cooperative model in Thua Thien Hue really started gaining momentum when it received positive support from Thua Thien Hue’s provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forest Protection Department. Members of the Cooperative are a diverse group, from FSC forest smallholders to seedling production enterprises and timber processing companies. This diversity encompasses the whole supply chain’s responsibility, as well as ensuring products from FSC certified forests are purchased and processed sustainably after harvesting.
Hoa Loc Cooperative with their 56 FSC smallholders owning 515 hectares of forest, is one of the 35 sub-associations under TTH-FOSDA network in Thua Thien Hue province, an Association that manages 4,672 ha FSC forest belonging to 948 FSC forest smallholders. Hoa Loc Cooperative is a great example of WWF’s vision of moving forest smallholders, who occupy 37% of planted forests in Vietnam, toward sustainable forest production and access to a responsible supply chain.
To date more than 21,000 hectares of plantation forest has been FSC certified in the Central Annamites Landscape of Vietnam, comprising Hue, Quang Nam and Quang Tri Provinces, under the support of the WWF and IKEA partnership. The partnership aims to scale up this impact to the national and regional levels, which would ensure greater sustainability of supply chains and support local community livelihoods while minimizing deforestation and improving habitats for wildlife in key landscapes.
After one year of operation, with technical advisory support from WWF, the Cooperative has established a nursery garden to produce high quality seedlings with biodegradable seedling bags, as well as set up local wood processing facilities linked with FSC/CoC certified saw-mills, connecting their products to furniture companies in the FSC timber supply chain. They’ve also organized a series of training courses for members on sustainable forest management, silviculture technique, and labor safety.
The cooperative and its business have successfully created more jobs and brought higher income for their members, as well as the surrounding community. It’s a model that has brought interest from the highest levels of government in Vietnam. The visit from the Deputy Prime Minister is a vote of confidence for what the community has created, and there is interest in expanding the cooperative model to the rest of the country.
During the visit the Deputy Prime Minister had a chance to interact with members of the cooperative and listened to their story of shifting to sustainability. He concluded with a recommendation to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and Thua Thien Hue Province that “this is a great model and I recommend MARD to work with Thua Thien Hue province to study how to replicate this model nationwide.”
With this approval from the highest level of government, Vietnam can be an example to the region of valuing forests, sustainable supply chains, biodiversity, and communities that can thrive for generations to come.
Author: Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh