Better forests for higher carbon storage in Viet Nam

Local people in buffer zone of Ke Go Nature Reserve implementing enrichment planting with native species Erythrophleum fordii; Photo: Nguyen The Chien/ SNV

Local people in buffer zone of Ke Go Nature Reserve implementing enrichment planting with native species Erythrophleum fordii; Photo: Nguyen The Chien/ SNV

Viet Nam is known for having reduced rates of deforestation significantly over the last 20 years.  However, this success has come at the cost of forest quality. In 2005, Viet Nam had over 5.5 million hectares of severely degraded natural forests. Unfortunately, there has been a serious lack of investment in efforts to improve forest quality and introduce forest landscape restoration (FLR) measures. Against this background, the ‘Advancing Understanding of Natural Forest Carbon Stock Enhancement as part of REDD+’ (ENRICH) project, supported by the International Climate Initiative and implemented by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation since November 2011, constitutes a promising pioneer project. The general project objective was to  advance understanding of natural forest carbon stock enhancement as part of any future REDD+ agreement by developing and implementing measures for ecologically and socially compatible rehabilitation of forest ecosystems at landscape level.

Given the status of its forests, enhancement of forest carbon is a highly relevant climate policy objective for Viet Nam. Historically, the country has made significant progress on reforestation, and the total forest area has increased in recent years. However, regeneration of the vast areas of poor quality forest remains a priority if Viet Nam is to maximise its natural resources, meet its climate objectives and sustainably manage competing demands on land use.

Restoration of mangrove forest in Shrimp Pool; Photo: Nguyen The Chien/ SNV

In the first phase (2011-2014), the ENRICH project explored the feasibility of different forest carbon stock enhancement strategies at pilot sites in Viet Nam. The project established 20 permanent forest carbon monitoring sample plots for the evergreen forest ecosystem in Ha Tinh province and produced and distributed technical guidance material to project stakeholders at national and local level. The ENRICH project also explored how better to integrate forest carbon stock enhancement as part of the National REDD+ Strategy.

The project succeeded in enhancing the productivity of between 20% and 25% of the degraded forests through forest restoration and promoted natural regeneration to increase the total standing biomass and carbon stock of these forests. It also increased the biodiversity value and other ecosystem services provided by the forests.

Mangrove restoration; Photo: Nguyen The Chien/ SNV

Project interventions also generated socio-economic benefits associated with engaging and employing local communities on ENRICH activities. ‘Participating in the ENRICH project helped me to rehabilitate the natural forest ecosystem in our forest land’, says Mr. PHAM Huy Hoang from Tan Thanh Village in Ha Tinh province.

In the second phase (2015-2018), the project aimed to develop and implement measures to rehabilitate forest ecosystems at landscape level in an ecologically and socially compatible rehabilitation of forest ecosystems at the landscape level. This has been achieved by supporting the authorities in designing and introducing provincial landscape plans as part of the National REDD+ Programme, by linking activities to simplified performance-based incentives, and by addressing the drivers of forest degradation, such as conversion of natural forest to fast-growing Acacia species, encroachment on to natural forest for agricultural production, and illegal logging. The project explores how to integrate non-carbon benefits into payment and monitoring mechanisms across the landscape.

The project is pioneering the use of Forest Landscape Restoration through developing and implementing pilot activities in Ha Tinh and Nghe An Provinces, which are intended to generate results-based payments from the FCPF Carbon Fund programme (2019-2025). It shows how addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation holistically across different parts of the landscape can underpin strategies to deliver forest carbon stock enhancement, support the country’s REDD+ and climate change mitigation objectives and deliver sustainable development.

Mr. Hoang is planting Michelia mediocris Dandy in his forestland; Photo: Nguyen The Chien/ SNV  With the forest landscape approach, forest restoration opportunities often occur not only on forest lands but also on nearby agricultural lands, so rural communities have a direct impact on local restoration potential through the associated mosaics of sustainable land use on agroforestry farms. Participation in forest restoration activities enables local farmers and local communities to benefit by restoring the functionality of deforested and degraded landscapes, enhancing food production and increasing the availability of forest and non-forest products. As Mr. PHAM Huy Hoang explains, ‘If the forest recovers well, we will have enough water for two paddy crops per year. The project has provided high value indigenous tree species such as Erythrophleum fordii and Michelia mediocris Dandy. These native trees will give value for the next 20 to 30 years. I consider this a valuable asset for my children and a contribution to the protection of the environment’.

So far, the ENRICH project has successfully restored over 5,000 ha of degraded forest landscape, trained more than 1,900 farmers on agricultural and silvicultural measures and developed the capacity of technical staff to formulate FLR plans. More than 500 households comprising about 2,000 individuals have benefited directly from the project’s activities.