Recommendations for VPA/FLEGT Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism

On August 14, 2020, at the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) office, representatives of RECOFTC Vietnam, WWF Vietnam (participating online), and PanNature had a meeting with the VPA/FLEGT  Monitoring and Evaluation advisory group to provide recommendations on the development of the draft framework.

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‘Treasury’ of biodiversity discovered in Kon Tum

Surveys about biodiversity by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) have uncovered a ‘treasury’ of rare and precious rare animals in Kon Long district in Kon Tum province.

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Workshop “Promoting the Role of Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Communities in Environmental Protection”

Hai Phong, September 25th, 2020 – PanNature, in cooperation with Committee for Ethnic Affairs, held a workshop “Promoting the role of ethnic minority and mountainous communities in environmental protection – Orientation, mechanisms, and policies in the Environmental Protection Law”.

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Can Vietnam Prevent the Next Pandemic?

As zoonotic diseases become more dangerous, Vietnam moves toward cracking down on wildlife trafficking.

A growing awareness of the links between wildlife trafficking and SARS, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases has prompted the Vietnamese prime minister to issue an executive order to clamp down on this vast smuggling trade in endangered species.

During recent months, conservation NGOs and Hanoi’s Ministry of Health have alerted the government to the increasing danger of new zoonotic diseases being triggered by the nation’s wildlife trade.

An Asiatic moon bear pokes from a trailer in an illegal bear bile farm in Khanh Binh village, Tan Uyen, Binh Duong province, Vietnam, Jan. 18, 2010.
Credit: AP Photo/Le Quang Nhat

HIV originated in monkeys; Ebola is believed to come from bats; H1N1 influenza came from pigs. Most recently, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have originated in bats. The number of such “zoonotic” epidemics is rising, according to a new UN report.

Most scientists have concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in southern China, started in bats. The intermediate host that transmitted the deadly virus to humans may well have been the much-smuggled pangolin, according to one Chinese study. This is still a working hypothesis, however.

Vietnamese health experts are closely monitoring these developments. Dr. Le Thi Huong,  director of the Institute of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Hanoi Medical University, told The Diplomat that “the virus that jumped from bats into humans through an intermediate host, causing the COVID-19 pandemic, has shone a spotlight on how easily zoonotic diseases can emerge from wildlife, exposing a serious gap in the wildlife [protection] regime.”

In spite of Vietnam’s widely acclaimed success in containing the COVID-19 without a single death, NGOs are warning that the country’s huge wildlife trade, estimated to be worth $1 billion, leaves the door wide open to new viruses and pandemics that could emerge from a nexus of trafficking, wet markets, and wildlife farms.

Huong is calling for strong measures to be taken. “We must expand efforts to stop the illegal wildlife trade that poses a health risk, as well as to close wildlife markets when they threaten human and animal health. We have to prevent this kaleidoscope of pathogens from entering the country.”

The executive order signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on July 23 is designed to remedy the poor enforcement of existing wildlife trafficking laws. The directive calls on ministries to revise and update laws to “Stop the import of living or dead wild animals, eggs, larvae, parts and derivatives of wild animals and resolutely eliminate markets and places linked to illegal wildlife trading.”

A large Malayan Pangolin (Manis Javanica) smelling the air searching for signs of danger in the state of Perak , Peninsular Malaysia. Photo by WWF Malaysia/ Stephen Hogg. One theory holds that the pangolin may have served as the intermediary host for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

This far-reaching directive seeks to enlist national security agencies to investigate and stop transnational wildlife syndicates that use Vietnam as a transit hub to traffic wildlife and animal parts, including rhino horns and ivory from Africa, to their final destination in China. The directive orders ministries to revise old legislation but does not replace existing laws.

However, some doubts have arisen over how far the government will go to outlaw the trade based on the statement by Ha Cong Tuan, the deputy minister of Agriculture and officer in charge of drafting the executive order.

Ha Cong Tuan cautioned that while “the government recognized the viewpoint of those [who want] an absolute ban on all trade in wildlife species, we should be very careful.” He added that “many wild species have been successfully raised” in farms, potentially blurring the line between the licit and illicit activities.

Thousands of wildlife farms conduct a lucrative business in southern Vietnam, supplying consumers and wild meat restaurants with no regard to the spread of infectious diseases. Many of these operations enjoy quasi-legal status.

anoi-based wildlife NGO Pan Nature sent a letter signed by 14 other environmental NGOs in February to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc calling on authorities “to close markets and other locations where illegal wildlife is on sale.”

Trinh Le Nguyen, the director of Pan Nature, expressed his concerns about the executive order released on July 23: “I think there it should be much stronger and with stricter regulations on wildlife farming. Several conservation agencies are working on further recommendations.”

A landmark scientific study based in Vietnam found that “Coronaviruses were detected in the majority of wildlife farms,” 17 of the 28 studied in the paper. The joint team of international and local experts identified six known coronaviruses in bats and rodents. The study concluded, “Livestock and people living in close contact with rodents, bats, and birds shedding coronaviruses provides opportunities for intra- and inter-species transmission and potential recombination of coronaviruses.”

Another study matched 142 viruses known to have been transmitted from animals to humans over many years to IUCN’s Red List of threatened species. The authors found that “threatened species with a population size reduction owing to exploitation … have over twice as many zoonotic viruses as compared to threatened species listed for other reasons.” The authors added, “Exploitation of wildlife through hunting and the wild animal trade have been hypothesized as increasing opportunities for pathogen spillover because of the close contact between wildlife and humans involved in these activities.”

While many coronaviruses never develop or mutate into a deadly strain like COVID-19, the fact that these viruses are widely circulating in wildlife farms is a clear warning to public health authorities about the potential for future pandemics.

But it is not only Vietnam that has to improve its laws and its law enforcement but the whole region. K. Yoganand, regional lead for wildlife and wildlife crime at WWF Greater Mekong, explained the major flaw in nearly all wildlife legislation: “Wildlife trade laws in most countries do not factor in infectious disease risks. This is a major gap in policy.”

He recommends that “To minimize viral epidemic risks, all commercial trade in wild animals and birds needs to be suspended by governments, to be followed by a scientific assessment of which groups of wild animals are at high risk of carrying viruses that can be transmitted to people.”

What worries UN Environmental Program (UNEP) experts is that most of the world’s coverage on COVID-19 has been focused on the treatment of the patients, the economic fallout, and the frantic search for a vaccine. Much less publicity is given to what has brought about this dramatic spike in viral epidemics – SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19 – and the environmental roots of the problem.

The destruction of forests and other natural habitats, along with wildlife trafficking, will lead to a stream of animal diseases jumping to humans, unless we do more to tackle the environmental causes of COVID-19, UNEP warned in a new report.

Even before COVID-19, 2 million people died from zoonotic diseases every year, mostly in poorer countries. These experts say the latest lethal outbreak was highly predictable.

“It was predicted that this was going to happen and it’s going to happen again until we learn the lessons,” warns Dr Jane Goodall the famous British primatologist. She says that nature is sending us a message: “Our disrespect of the animals we should share the planet with, that has caused this pandemic.”

Preventive health expert Dr. Huong agrees. “there is a clear need to take a ‘One Health’ approach to wildlife trade.” In Hanoi, the Ministry of Health cooperates with Hanoi Medical University in training human resources to develop the “One Health network” adopting the policy that biodiversity, respect for wildlife, and human health are all inextricably linked.

To avert the next wildlife-related pandemic, Huong hopes that Vietnam’s new government directive will bring “many more prosecutions, including online traders, and ideally put pressure on thousands of farms with known links to illegal wildlife trading.”

The prime minister’s directive looks set to bring about tougher legislation and stronger law enforcement to deal the international dimension of wildlife trafficking. But pressures from some of Vietnam’s powerful interest groups to protect domestic wildlife farms could still frustrate efforts in what could potentially be a historic breakthrough in the region.

Author: Tom Fawthrop, based in Southeast Asia, has been a regular contributor to the Guardian, Economist, South China Morning Post, and The Diplomat for many years.

Source: The Diplomat

Making CFM work in Central Highlands Vietnam through an inclusive landscape governance approach

Transfer of land-use rights from the state to the community to encourage community forest management (CFM) and use of forest resources for livelihood improvement, has been in place in Vietnam since the 1990s. However, while the policies, institutions, and approaches used to develop this model still continue to be developed and improved by the State and NGOs, the specific practical aspects of policy implementation and confirmation of performance still needs further evaluation.

In 2019, People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) – an MRLG partner organization in Vietnam – in collaboration with the Central Highlands University conducted a baseline study in two piloted CFM models in Yang Mao commune, Dak Lak province, Central Highlands Vietnam. The study was carried out with the specific objectives: (i) Generally analyzing the current situation of CFM models within the study area; (ii) Analyzing the potentials and constraints related to current forest management. We also looked across the two CFM models
for lessons learned and discuss the factors that influence the effectiveness of CFM on the ground.

Tul and Hang Nam village, are two of 11 villages of Yang Mao – a mountainous commune of Krong Bong district. The population of these two villages mostly are M’Nong ethnic group, with 105 households in Tul and 167 households in Hang Nam. Swidden cultivation (maze and cassava) and husbandry are two main livelihood activities in the area. Especially in the context of commercial crop boom and illegal migration of some Northern ethnic minority groups, the cultivation land shortage has been a major problem for many villagers in the area, according to the study household interviews.

The meeting of Hang Nam Village community for sustainable forest plan

The meeting of Hang Nam Village’s community for sustainable forest plan

 In 2002, these two villages were selected by the District authority as part of the pilot location for forest allocation program to the entire community with the area of nearly 1500 ha forestland (1,130.7 for Tul and 404.8 for Hang Nam respectively). Natural production forests, which account for 64% while the rest were barren land that was designed for tree plantations. The rights to forests of these two villages are specified based on the 50 years forest allocation indenture (Green-book), instead of the official land-use certificate, that including rights to use and get benefits from forest products (timber and NTFPs) for both household demand and commercial purposes and be allowed to call for investment in forest production activities. A local agreement on forest management and the benefit-sharing mechanism was along developed among villagers during this period.

The meeting of Tul Village community for sustainable forest plan

However, our assessment reveals that during nearly 15 years, villagers have not benefited much from the allocated forests, except NTFPs for household demands. The two villages have also not received any supports, both financially and technically from local authorities or NGOs for their efforts in forest protection and management. As a result, the allocated forest areas in both villages have decreased, appropriately 1.7-1.9% per year. The main causes of
deforestation are mainly due to encroachment and illegal logging. The lack of guidelines in forest management by state authority and the clear benefit-sharing mechanism also reduced people’s motivation to protect forests. The loss of these community forests also placed great pressure on the rich natural forests nearby.

Since 2014, the situation has improved greatly through the implementation of Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services (PES). Nearly 700 ha of community forests are under PES scheme. With the support from District Forest Protection Unit and local authority, the groups of villagers are organized to carry out forest patrol activities. Village rules related to forest management, which details local activities allowed within the village boundaries and under
PES schemes have been discussed and employed strictly. At the same time, groups of HHs (8-12 or so, are which tended to be households that lived near one another or are relatives), led by a group head, sign a formal yearly contract with state forest owners nearby as the Chu Yang Sin National Park and Yang Mao Commune People’s Committee (CPC) and agree to regularly patrol the specified area, prevent forest fires, and report outsiders. According to the HH survey, annually each household received on average ~1.8-2 million VND per household/year (78-87 USD/HH/year), accounting for 34-54% total HH forest-based income.

In the conclusion, the study highlights some key points that can influence the effectiveness of CFM in the research site: (i) The local villagers are already legally entitled to full benefits from the allocated forests. However, in practice, forestland-use certificate is necessary but not sufficient condition to guarantee local villagers’ right to get benefits from forests; (ii) Forest-related financial incentives, such as ecosystem services under PES and other investments in forest-friendly tree plantations or agroforestry play a very important role in promoting people’s motivation and desire in forest management post-FLA; (iii) the local social and political assets, such as the culture of a close relationship with forests, leadership, trust, local forest practices, clear regulation and responsibility, clear and appropriate benefit-sharing mechanism and collective action also can be considered as important factors in
designing and operating CFM; (iv) Engagement and collaboration multi-stakeholders, including local authorities, forest rangers, state forest owners and local communities in forest management is key for one inclusive and sustainable forest governance.

Instead of bringing up a new model, PanNature has tried to articulate the existing state and local institutions with the local political economy as well as local norms needs and desires to foster better effectiveness and sustainability of the CFM model in the project site. “Inclusive Forest Landscape Governance is the name of this approach and we hope it will be further applied and replicated in Vietnam’s CFM system in the future.”

Nguyen Thi Hai Van/PanNature

Vietnam calls halt to wildlife imports, illegal markets

Vietnam would halt importing and trading wild animals either dead or alive, according to a directive from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued Thursday.

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A ‘treasure trove’ of biodiversity found in Kon Tum Province, but it remains under grave threat

On July 21, 2020,  Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has revealed a treasure trove of rare wildlife in Kon Plong, Kon Tum Province. Home to many threatened species and rich biodiversity, Kon Plong deserves to be considered one of the most valuable forests for conservation in the whole of Vietnam.

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Data Literacy Training

The first training in a series of training courses on data literacy is organized by PanNature in collaboration with Open Data Institute (ODI) in Ha Long, Quang Ninh province from July 6 to 10.

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Forest restoration by using native multipurpose plants in Son La

On June 24, 2020, People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in collaboration with the Women’s Union branch of Thin Village carried out the reforestation activity on community forest land in Thin village, Xuan Nha commune, Van Ho district, Son La province.

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Training Workshop on Testing FGMS

From 10 to 12 Jun, PanNature in collaboration with WWF Vietnam organized a training workshop on testing questionnaires for Forest Governance Monitoring System (FGMS). The training was followed by piloting data collection in relevant governmental agencies and communities in Quang Nam province.   

This event is part of a series of activities carried out in order to establish an FGMS for non-state actors (NSA) to monitor and strengthen forest landscape governance. The organizations will assess and develop effective FGMS that can build the capacity of NSAs to generate reliable information using GIS/web-based systems, and mobile technology to pilot FGMS in Quang Nam province. 

The training participants are representatives from social organizations, forestry cooperatives, and management boards of nature reserves in Quang Nam.

Mrs. Nguyen Bich Hang from WFF Vietnam introduced about questionnaire and indications for FGMS

In the workshop, a questionnaire for data collection was introduced to and discussed by participants. For testing the questionnaire, data collection was implemented in Quang Nam with relevant agencies and communities including DARD, Provincial Forest Protection Department, Forest Protection Fund, Forest Protection Division, Division of Agriculture, management boards of Nam Giang, Song Thanh Nature Reserve, Communal People’s Committees of Ta Bhing, La Dee, and households in Ta Bhing Commune.

Mr. Hoang Xuan Thuy, Deputy Director of PanNature introduced about FGMS

The workshop is a part of the EU-funded Voice for Mekong Forests (V4MF) Project, which aims to support NSAs to effectively participate in forest governance. For that, the project has developed a set of forest governance monitoring indicators as a tool to support NSAs. Currently, the indicators are in a testing phase and expected to be completed and started to operate by the end of 2020.

Participants discussed the questionnaire

The V4MF project, which aims to strengthen the role of NSAs in forest governance in the Mekong region, is implemented in 5 countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. In Vietnam, the project is implemented in four districts of Quang Nam province, including Phuoc Son, Nam Tra My, Tay Giang, and Nam Giang. In Vietnam, RECOFTC, WWF Vietnam, and PanNature are in charge to run the project.


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