According to FAO, 44.5% (about 13,797,000 ha) of Vietnam is forested. Of this only 0.6% (80,000 ha) is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest, 74% is secondary forest, and 25% is plantations.
Tree cover has been growing at an annual rate of 1% thanks to a policy prioritising the establishment of protection and production plantations. In 2013, the timber harvested from natural forests equated to just 1% of the eight million cubic metres from plantations.
Numerous causes contribute to tree loss including illegal logging, slash burning for agriculture use, forest fires and urbanization. The effects of the American War still resonate as well. Chemical defoliants, intense fighting and landmines resulted in an estimated 60% loss of tree coverage. Currently, deforestation occurs across the country including forests in the north, highlands and the Mekong Delta. Lack of public awareness, ineffective patrolling and prosecution are exacerbating the situation.
Despite Vietnam’s legal framework to address illegal logging, unauthorized cutting and trading is ongoing. Recent research by Chatham House and NGOs revealed Vietnam’s legislative framework to tackle illegal imports and trade is seriously lacking. As a result, it is no surprise that there are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 reported forest violations per year.
Key policies and governance approach
Forest management is governed by the 1992 Law on Forest Protection and Development, last amended in 2004, supported by several underlying policies. The new Vietnam Forestry Development Strategy (VFDS) for the 2021-2030 period, with a vision to 2050 is one of the country’s most important plans for the forestry sector. Vietnam’s first forestry development strategy was introduced in 2006 and ended in 2020.
Vietnam bans the export of logs and sawn wood. Circular No 12/2006/ND-CP, 2006, details the implementation of the Commercial Law regarding goods sale, purchase, processing, and transit agency activities with foreign countries.
Successes and Remaining Challenges
By 2020, Vietnam had exceeded a number of the goals set out in VFDS (2006–2020), including: (i) accelerating the growth of production value in the sector; (ii) increasing the export value of wood and forest products; (iii) increasing domestic wood production; and (iv) planting protection forest and special-use forests.
However, the forestry sector still faces many challenges when it comes to other key performance indicators, such as: (i) increasing the area of production forests with certification of sustainable forest management; (ii) increasing large-diameter timber production; (iii) increasing revenue for forest environmental services; (iv) securing forest and forest land for the purposes of allocation and leases; (v) reducing the number of poor households in forestry areas; and (vi) increasing the rate at which forestry workers are trained.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The EU and Vietnam are engaged in FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) negotiations at present. Vietnam is a major supplier of wood furniture worldwide and the EU is its second largest market. Vietnam imports timber from more than 80 countries for processing and re-export. Control of imported timber to ensure it is legally harvested is a key part of the timber legality assurance system Vietnam is developing. Vietnam’s efforts to ensure the legality of its timber products therefore have great potential to address illegality not only in Vietnam but across the world. In 2016, the value of Vietnam’s wood and wood product exports to the EU was US$736 million. The parties have defined legality in Vietnam, developed the Timber Legality Assurance System, discussed licensing, public information access and independent monitoring.
Goals and Ambitions
Vietnam has set specific goals for the forest sector by 2030. Economically, the goal is to grow the forestry production value at 5.0% to 5.5%/year. This would mean increasing the export value of wood and forest products from US$18-20 billion in 2025, to US$23-25 billion in 2030.
To achieve these targets, Vietnam will need to plant about 340,000 ha/yr of production forests by 2030. In addition, protective forests and special-use forests with indigenous, precious, and rare species are planned to increase by an average of 4,000 - 6,000 ha/year, and restoration of protection forests and special-use forests will amount to 15,000 ha/year on average.
To improve the quality of natural forests, productivity and efficiency of planted forests and agroforestry systems, the forest area with a certificate of sustainable forest management will reach over 1.0 million hectares in the 2026-2030 period.
The Government also intends to improve the social aspects of the forest sector. For example, the rate of laborers working in forestry with vocational training will reach 50% by 2030, while ensuring gender equality.
To recognise the important contribution of forest dwelling communities - by 2025, 50% and by 2030, 80% of mountainous households and ethnic minorities living in forested areas will participate in commodity forestry. By 2025, the average income of ethnic minority people working in forestry will increase more than 2 times compared to 2020, contributing to reducing the rate of poor households in ethnic minority areas each year by over 3.0%. By 2030, the average income of ethnic minorities will be at least half of the national average.
In relation to forest environmental management, the national forest cover rate will remain stable at 42% to 43%, effectively contributing to the implementation of the national commitments to reduce GHGs. By 2030, 100% of forest areas will be managed sustainably and 20% of the natural forest area will be upgraded, with improved efficiency of biodiversity conservation and forest protection capacity, minimizing cases of violations of the law on forestry, and ensuring environmental security.
- Strengthen the protection of natural forests to control deforestation, forest fires, forest conversion and natural forest degradation.
- Improve the efficiency of forest management and protection by establishing a forest resource monitoring system to ensure enhanced carbon storage and absorption capacity, and forest environmental services.
- Restore poor natural forests, plant more protection forests and special-use forests with native plants to improve the environment, mitigate harm caused by natural disasters, increase carbon sequestration, and proactively respond to climate change.
- Expand the area of planted forests to provide concentrated raw materials, with priority given to large-timber forests.
- Promote the socialisation of investment in forest development through incentive mechanisms and policies for land, credit, insurance, tax, and market associated with certificate of sustainable forest management according to the international standards.
- Enhance tree planting, especially woody perennials to provide timber and raw materials for production and consumption, and at the same time strengthen the protection and improvement of the environmental landscape.
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