Environmental conservationists have long been struggling with how to balance the needs of local communities to make a living and the need to preserve natural environments. Increasingly we are seeing policies and projects designed to compensate poor communities for the up keep of their environmentally important area. Vietnam has been seeing success in a relatively new policy to pay poor families to maintain forest space.
“A policy of payment for Forest Environmental Services, initiated by the government of Vietnam in 2009, has been successful not only in providing employment to poor families but also in generating awareness among the masses regarding forest protection. Under this policy, every family living in forest areas will be allocated a certain amount of forest land to maintain. Their wages will be paid by the environmental fees collected from companies who draw benefits from forest area. A year into its implementation, this initiative is showing encouraging results.
“[the policy involves] collecting environmental fees from certain organizations and individuals. 80% of the fees is distributed to the farmers. Entities expected to contribute to the environmental fees include hydropower plants, water companies and those using forest areas for ecotourism activities. Till date, seven entities involved in the production of hydro electricity and the supply of water have pledged to pay almost VND235 billion ($12.3 million) for the environmental services. In 2009, VND 47, 000 billion ($2.6 billion) was collected from the fees and was used to pay the 3,342 households and 12 army units who maintain more than 112,000 hectares of forest.”
Implications from Institute for the Future:
Typically, forest areas that are not specifically protected by governments are continuously declining in poor areas as families are forced to chop down trees for cooking wood and other needs. As such, finding a way to pay families to not cut down the trees may be the solution and following a similar model to Vietnam might do the trick. However, according to Strategic Foresight Group forests in Vietnam have been growing for the past 10 years, this is in stark contrast to general trends globally. Investigating what has lead to this increase before mimicking similar programs elsewhere may be beneficial.
Strategic Foresight Group, April 2010, pg. 16