In Vietnam, many forests are being effectively managed by the most active guardians - the local communities - thanks to their cultural norms: the forest left by their ancestors is also the place where the forest god resides. It’s the traditional regulations and laws imprinted through the traditional practice of worshiping the sacredness of the gods that guide the community to manage and protect these forests for hundreds and thousands of years. However, there are challenges ahead that hinder them from playing their role.
Vietnam has adopted a national Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PES) policy, which while primarily paying individual households for forest protection, has been flexible enough to allow for collective PES models to also arise. Such collective models have the potential to reduce transaction costs, avoid motivation crowding, and protect common-pool resources like community forests.
NGOs like Pan Nature continue to be engaged in World Environment Day by planting trees in Van Ho Commune in Son La, where the population of Northern white-cheeked gibbon lives and the endangered rare Northern white-cheeked gibbon. This volunteer activity is part of a long-term plan to restore 630 hectares of forest and conserve the rare Gibbon species. “While we do not have any formal partnership with the National Youth Union, we do work with the local Youth Union through capacity building and other initiatives says executive director Trinh Le Nguyen.
Stroll around any of Vietnam’s major universities, from Hanoi to the Mekong Delta, and ask a student, like Pham Oanh, what concerns her, and like so many other students with their smartphones in hand, her response will be the country’s environmental emergencies, ranging from air and water pollution to deforestation, loss of marine biodiversity, and waste treatment.