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Viet Nam - 04 September, 2018
On paper, land-use planning in Viet Nam stipulates that all relevant stakeholders must be consulted. At the rural commune level, however, this rarely happens. As a result, ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups are sidelined and lack the commitment to implement and abide by spatial and land-use plans.
In Gung Re, a poor rural commune in Lam Dong province in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, nearly half of the population belong to ethnic minorities. The villagers live on agricultural production, animal husbandry, fees for forest protection, and plantations. In recent years, people have started expanding coffee plantations. Some people encroached on the forest and illegally cut down trees to create coffee plantations. Others planted coffee trees in areas unsuitable for the crop. In all, nearly 400 ha of forestry land were converted for agricultural production. This unplanned expansion of arable land has created difficulties for the local authorities: it conflicts with official land-use plans and causes conflicts over land between local people and state forest enterprises. Moreover, the commune members who shifted to coffee production are vulnerable to price fluctuations.
A project run by Tropenbos Viet Nam and the Sustainable Trade Initiative in Gung Re commune has shown what truly participatory planning looks like. The project adopted a landscape approach and ensured the participation of all stakeholders: government managers, researchers, civil society organisations, and a diversity of local people from the commune. TBI organised multi-stakeholder meetings and workshops — from the district to commune and village level — to trigger interaction and a transparent sharing of ideas.
In the Gung Re project a 3D sandtable helped participants visualise land-use options. Spatial maps were created with input from the discussions; these further increased people’s understanding of the trade-offs between various land-use options. Commune members came to realise the importance of raising their voices on land-use issues. People said that they had never seen any land-use maps and had certainly never been asked to give their ideas. They were very pleased that they now understood the procedures and importance of the participatory planning process. They have started to negotiate their priorities against the demands of other actors. The authorities too are inspired by the approach. The vice-head of the District Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said: “I want PLUP to be upscaled in other areas of the district, as I can foresee the positive changes it will bring about.”
Published in the Annual Report 2017