(2006) JLP 52: 169-206

 

DECENTRALIZATION AND LOCAL POLITICS OF FOREST MANAGEMENT IN VIETNAM:

A CASE STUDY OF CƠ TU ETHNIC COMMUNITY

 

Hoang Huy Tuan

 

Abstract

 

Since the early 1990s the Government of Vietnam has decentralized the agricultural and forestry sectors. Forest and Land Allocation (FLA) is seen as a measure of decentralization in forest management. Forest land allocation took place in the Thuong Quang commune from 2003. It could be seen as an innovative policy for provincial authorities because they allocated natural forest areas, previously under the management of the Khe Tre State Forest Enterprise, to local people.

 

This study was conducted in two villages in the Thuong Quang commune, Nam Dong district, Thua Thien Hue province. A Rang village has a majority of forest recipients, while A Ka village has few forest recipients. There are four key findings of the study. (1) The forest decentralization process has transferred significant powers to the district authority, which is not only upwardly accountable to the provincial government, but also downwardly accountable to the commune authority. The forest recipients have mainly had transferred to them the power of use of allocated forest, but they are still subject to the state laws. Meanwhile, the central government has handed over the power to control allocated forest to government agencies. Local governments are still more upwardly than downwardly accountable. (2) Gaps between legal rights and rights in practice in forests continue to exist, and vary between the two studied villages. In A Rang village, most households are forest recipients. They have managed their forest according to the village‚Äôs forest management regulations, which are a hybrid of customary law and state law. In A Ka village non-recipients still today strictly adhere to their customary laws. (3) The prospect of reducing the costs of forest management is a major incentive for local governments and government agencies to be involved in the FLA policy, while the Cơ Tu people involved in the FLA policy have short-term demands. Better coordinative ability is an important factor that could produce success for the FLA policy. (4) Although the women were often ignored, they are now more aware of their rights and responsibilities in forest management. The roles of women in the family have been significantly enhanced by changes in inheritance under the FLA policy.