Loosening Official Grip for Ecological Gain – Market Approach in Mangrove Forest Conservation in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Article and photos by Dr Nguyen Trinh Minh Anh, the 2018/19 ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow placed at the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment, Viet Nam.

I joined the 2018/19 ASEAN Science and Technology Fellowship aiming to promote the conservation of mangrove forests in Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The total area of mangrove forests in Mekong Delta is small compared to other countries in SEA, at only 150,000ha in 2018 and reducing at an alarming rate due to the extension of intensive aquaculture farming. Conserving the forest is not only important in protecting local communities against the impacts of climate change such as the sea-level rise and extreme weather event, but also a highlight in reducing GHGs emissions because most mangrove forests in this area grow in peat soil.

My participation in this effort started with reviewing a pilot policy at the provincial level, which aims to integrate private sectors (e.g. aquaculture food processing companies) in conserving the forests. This pilot policy is the first of its kind in Vietnam because it breaks the traditional two-party relation between local farmers and the government in mangrove forest management and creates a triangle relation between local farmers, the government and private business sectors. Upon reviewing the limitations of this policy in a local socio-political and economic context, I proposed recommendations for some points in the policy which is subject to revision by the provincial and central government.

The process of policy advocacy is not as straightforward as it is in the research phase. I managed to recommend my proposed changes for the upcoming revised policy to the provincial authority in mangrove forest conservation and made sure they are discussed at the central level. These policy recommendations would be considered to be incorporated into the revised policy. In other words, based on the network I established at the provincial level during my fieldwork and my status as a Fellow under MONRE, I acted as a link between the provincial and central government to quicken the policy advocacy process.

Discussion with a local farmer on sustainable agriculture solution on the buffer zone of mangrove forest, Camau Province, April 2019.

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