Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. Its tropical climate makes it a naturally biodiverse place, but deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of citizens. In April 2021, USAID approved two new projects totaling $74 million to help fight deforestation in Vietnam and improve the lives of thousands of citizens in poverty who rely on forests to live.
Deforestation in Vietnam
Deforestation in Vietnam is very severe. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the South Vietnam Lowland Dry Forests region is the most degraded forest outside India. Despite being home to many endangered species, only 2% of the forests are designated as protected. Furthermore, about 90% of the forests are subject to deforestation. The U.N. emphasizes that protecting biodiversity and restoring previously exploited land will improve the quality of life for citizens in countries worldwide. Indigenous and rural communities, in particular, will benefit from reversing deforestation as the protection of forest resources decreases the economic vulnerability of these groups.
The Sustainable Forest Management Project
The USAID Sustainable Forest Management project partners with the Vietnamese Government, the Vietnam Forest Owner Association (VIFORA) and forest owners to minimize the impacts of deforestation in seven of Vietnam’s most affected provinces. The main objective of this project is to develop and enforce forest conservation policies. This includes funding to increase the Vietnamese Government’s ability to prosecute deforestation crimes.
Execution of this program also involves working with the authorities, private companies and local forest owners to extend the reach of the Payment for Forest Environmental Services program. This mechanism provides direct monetary compensation to residents for forest protection efforts. Strong partnerships between aid organizations and local implementers allow these programs to help the target populations build self-sufficiency effectively.
USAID allotted $36 million for this project. In addition to funding forest management policies, this program directly helps Vietnamese communities living in forest land by promoting sustainable lifestyle practices for forest dwellers. An estimated 250,000 hectares of forest and 70 organizations will benefit from the program. The program will also benefit the 60,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests who are expected to have improved and more sustainable livelihoods.
The Biodiversity Conservation Project
The USAID Biodiversity Conservation project partners with the World Wildlife Fund to provide economical alternatives for activities that lead to Vietnam’s deforestation. The project focuses on substituting forest-harming industries with forest-preserving ones. The project has the potential to increase incomes for forest-dwelling communities while reversing deforestation in Vietnam. The Biodiversity Conservation project relies on strong partnerships with the Vietnamese Government and local organizations for effective implementation.
USAID allotted $38 million for this project, which will benefit 700,000 hectares of forest land. An additional 7,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests will also gain income opportunities from forest-friendly endeavors. In addition, 250 villages will receive increased protection of their natural environments with a 50% decrease in animal hunting and consumption.
Deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged populations still living in forest land. Despite this vulnerability, the Vietnamese Government struggles to stop deforestation without foreign aid. USAID’s two projects not only fight deforestation but promote practices that will directly help lift forest dwellers out of poverty.
– Viola Chow