More than 40% of Vietnam’s land area is classified as forest, and it is one of the 20 most biodiverse countries globally. As a result of the nation’s ambitious reforestation and land allocation programmes since the 1990s, overall forest cover has increased significantly, mainly due to major expansion of planted forests. Vietnam is the only Mekong country that has reported a continuous forest cover increase over the past few decades. The Government’s plans to achieve a target of 45% forest cover by 2030.
Despite this progress, Vietnam still faces challenges in its forest and land use sector. Natural forest loss continues and the quality of Vietnam’s forests has deteriorated, threatening biodiversity and ecosystem services. The ecosystem services and commodities provided by its forests support economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation, while also supporting the livelihoods of the 25 million people who live in or near forests. These include many ethnic minority groups living in remote, upland areas.
Deforestation and forest degradation occur in many localities due to agricultural expansion, legal and illegal logging, development of hydropower and other infrastructure, and forest fires. The Central Highlands region contains some of the country’s most biodiverse and carbon-rich forests but deforestation rates are high. Forests are threatened by demand for commodity crops such as coffee and rubber.
In recent years, the Government of Vietnam has made considerable progress in tackling forest and land-use challenges. For example, Vietnam is one of very few countries to implement REDD+ Readiness, a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), and payments for ecosystem services (PES) simultaneously. The country is a regional champion of PES and has a nationally regulated Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) system that transfers revenues from hydropower, municipal water, and ecotourism companies to households in protection forest areas. Vietnam became the first Asia-Pacific country to complete the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ and has a revised, strengthened National REDD+ Action Plan. In 2019, Vietnam’s Voluntary Partnership (VPA) with the EU was ratified, to combat illegal logging and promote legal timber trade.