State of Forest Governance in Vietnam: Where Are the Local Communities?

  • Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak


For the past 20 years, Vietnam has taken up the enormous challenge of decentralizing its forest governance and management. The government assumed that by involving local communities in forest management, Vietnam’s forest resources would be better conserved while local livelihoods would be improved, such as through the allocation of forestland or the introduction of agroforestry. Vietnam’s forest governance shifted from top-down forest exploitation by state forest enterprises in the 1970s to forestland allocation to households in the 1990s and to the introduction of community forestry in the 2000s. Vietnam has been championed by the international community for its social forestry approach, which successfully halted deforestation in the nation. Forest and tree cover have significantly increased from 9.3 million hectares (ha) in 1995 to 13.4 million ha in 2010. However, while this achievement is impressive, the roles and decision-making powers of local communities in forest governance remain unclear. Households and communities do not legally own allocated forestland, and it is still the state which stipulates how forests are managed. This chapter adopts a macro-level approach to forest governance in Vietnam. To what extent do communities have the ability to exercise decision-making power over their forests? In this chapter I argue that forestland allocation to communities has a mainly positive symbolic meaning for the involved communities, but that in the formal decision-making process they only play a marginal role.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography, College of Liberal ArtsNational Taiwan Normal UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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