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Community Forestry in Vietnam: Actors and Political Process.
14/10/20 04:12PM
Ngo Duy Bach. The Chair of Forest- and Nature Conservation Policy - Faculty of Forest Science and Forest Ecology - Georg-August Universität Göttingen, 2016.
Abstract: Community forestry is an expanding model of forestry whereby a significant portion of responsibility for forest management is transferred from the state to the lower community levels. As such, community forestry aims to enhance accessibility of the direct forest users in forests and common decision-making process, as well as to improve forest management and restoration. Centralized forest management practices have been unable to successfully implement these promises on the ground; however, it remains to be seen whether community forestry can find success where the forests continue to be governed by the powerful relevant actors. It is observed that there exists a relationship between the context of political processes and the dynamics of social interactions among the actors involved in community forestry; when these actors and their power sources are focused upon, key factors might become identifiable. Scholars note that poor communities are vulnerable to the influences of powerful relevant actors, suggesting that these may be driving the processes and outcomes of community forestry. Based on this argument, the research hypothesis is “the activities and outcomes of community forestry are driven by powerful relevant actors”. ---  To investigate the issue, this research will examine cases of community forestry in Hoa Binh and Son La provinces as compared with the larger community forestry programs of Vietnam. Hoa Binh and Son La were selected for study as they contain both the largest amount of forest-covered land and the highest rate of poverty in Northwest Vietnam, both of which may serve to illuminate the features and practices of powerful actors in the community forestry movement. Qualitative and quantitative approaches have been applied to identify actors involved in community forestry as well as their power features and interests. In this research, power is defined as a social relationship whereby a potentate alters the behavior of a subordinate without recognizing his or her will. Resting on the power theories of Weber and Krott (citation needed), this research focuses on three elements of power: coercion, incentives and dominant information. The most powerful actors are identified across 15 case studies using quantitative analysis; of these, actors belonging to the political group are estimated to be the most frequent relevant actors involved in community forestry (see Figure 5.3). Further investigation demonstrates that forest administration and political actors are the most influential individuals in community forestry in Vietnam. The results of the quantitative calculation of these actors’ power elements show how actors build and consolidate their power to influence the outcomes of community forestry. ---  The outcomes, analyzed in Chapter 6 and displayed in Table 6.13, are estimated to be medium (valued 2) in most cases. This proves that the powerful relevant actors do not expect high social and economic outcomes for forest end users. Further studies on the interests of the powerful relevant actors provide scientific basis from which to conclude that the outcomes of community forestry are influenced by the powerful relevant actors. These results are in contradiction to the goals of community forestry, which aims to empower direct forest users and provide them with a means of economic contribution. Analyses of the influence of powerful relevant actors in Chapter 8 clearly indicate that the appearance of the political actors and public administration validates the notion that community forestry programs are being implemented to serve state forestry goals. In other words, community forestry in Vietnam is, as the saying goes, old wine in a new bottle. This research has discovered that community forestry programs in the research sites have created mixed impacts in terms of forest greenery and socio-economic improvement. However, the forest administration is still seen as the most influential of actors and as such is involved in most community forestry activities. Based on these findings, this study concludes that the activities and outcomes of community forestry mostly depend on the interests of the powerful relevant actors. [Bach-2016.pdf].

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