Empowering upland communities to manage forests in Vietnam

  • Year

    2015 – 2016

  • Location

    Thai Nguyen province, Vietnam

  • Partners

    Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas, Vietnam

  • Budget

    EUR 200 000

  • Funded by

    European Union


The EU REDD Facility has supported a project to demonstrate how a collective action approach to forest protection could overcome challenges associated with Forest Allocation in upland regions in Vietnam.

The objective

The pilot project in Thai Nguyen Province has supported upland communities to form self-governing groups and cooperatives to manage the forests that underpin their livelihoods and traditions. Planning and management processes appropriate to communal tenure empower communities to manage natural forests.

Corn plantation in the Thai Nguyen province, Vietnam

The challenge

Vietnam has made strides in reversing rapid forest loss through afforestation and regeneration efforts in recent years. Over the last two decades, the Government of Vietnam, through a policy of Forest Land Allocation and Forest Allocation, has transferred forest management to households and local communities in order to improve sustainable forest management and alleviate poverty. The policy is based on the theory that improving access to forest land and giving local people the right to make productive use of forest will motivate them to use and manage the land more carefully and sustainably.

Unfortunately, the implementation of Forest Allocation has been less successful than anticipated in the remote uplands of Vietnam, which are the most forested regions. The country’s last remaining intact natural forests in the upland areas bordering Cambodia, Laos and China are under threat from illegal logging and illegal timber trade. These areas are home to local communities, including marginalized ethnic groups, who have few incentives to manage forests sustainably.

The approach

The Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas (CERDA), with the support of the EU REDD Facility, conducted a pilot intervention to demonstrate how a collective action approach to forest protection could overcome some of the challenges associated with Forest Allocation in upland regions in Vietnam. The intervention was conducted in Thai Nguyen Province, in the northern uplands of Vietnam. The pilot intervention expands on CERDA’s previous work in the Binh Long commune, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, to four neighbouring communes in the Vo Nhai District: Phu Thuong, Dan Tien, Trang Xa and Phuong Giao. The Tay and Nunug ethnic groups each make up about 20% of the communes, the Dao 15% and Cao Lan, Sun Diu, San Chi, H’Mong, Thai, Kinh and Muong the rest. Poverty affects around a third of the people in these communes.

The approach involved:

  • Supporting communities to form self-governing groups or cooperatives to manage forests using collective governance structures.
  • Developing a low-cost approach for forest allocation in upland regions utilising community expertise and capacity.
  • Developing a community-based forest protection approach.
  • Introducing incentives for communities to engage in forest protection efforts, including a revolving fund for microcredit tied to performance.

Collective action in Thai Nguyen Province

Collective action in Thai Nguyen Province

Results and impact


  • The pilot intervention had a thorough participatory process, as measured by the number of commune, village, cooperative and self-governing group meetings.
  • The collective structures of self-governing groups and cooperatives have developed significant social capital among participating households and villages. Benefits include greater community cohesion, greater awareness of community roles in forest management and protection, and collective organisation.
  • There is now a greater sense of collective ownership and responsibility for allocated forest, including forest protection.
  • Economic benefits have been distributed evenly across participating self-governing groups. This has avoided conflict between high social capital (village leaders) and low social capital (economically poor) households.
  • It has been reported that improvements in forest quality, including ecosystem functions and biodiversity, have been achieved.


Community-led forest governance can achieve reliable, cost-effective and participative forest protection measures, although significant capacity building and external support is required to ensure the sustainability of cooperative governance structures.

  • Mapping and inventory by communities can be a cost-effective alternative, and supplement, to intensive forest mapping and inventory by trained technicians. The forest land was mapped, inventoried and demarcated on the ground in a cost-efficient manner, with a high degree of support from the community.
  • Interim support prior to the receipt of results-based payments can be delivered through revolving funds and cooperative economies of scale that enable communities to acquire low-cost, high quality agricultural inputs.

Collective action in Thai Nguyen Province