Vietnam is one of the five countries hardest hit by climate change, with its coastal region being the most vulnerable area. Community-based management and development of mangrove forests is an effective way to strengthen coastal resilience against climate change.

Vietnam has favourable conditions for mangrove forests to grow and develop. However, the area and quality of this kind of forest are declining. The total area of mangrove forest in the country is about 200,000 hectares, down 60 percent compared to 70 years ago.

According to Nguyen Quoc Dung, Forestry Inventory and Planning Institute, there are several reasons behind the decline of mangrove forests. They include the changing use of forest land for aquaculture, the overexploitation of wood and natural resources as well as environmental pollution and climate change.

At present, forest protection is facing difficulties due to the lack of synchronous technical solutions, inter-ministerial collaboration and sustainable financial mechanisms for the management and restoration of the mangrove forests. More importantly, the activity has not yet mobilised community involvement.

In the central province of Thanh Hoa, thanks to strengthening the role of the community in forest growing and protection, the area of submerged forest has increased remarkably. Since 2007, with the support of CARE Vietnam, the model of community-based multipurpose mangrove forest planting has been developed in Nga Thuy commune, Nga Son district and Da Loc commune in Hau Loc district.

Nguyen Van Dinh, Vice Chairman of the Da Loc communal People’s Committee, said his commune had 200 hectares of submerged forest prior to 2007.

Thanks to the support of domestic and international organisations, additional 300 hectares have been grown, raising the total area of mangrove forest in the commune to 500 hectares. The commune plans to grow 200 hectares more from now to 2020, Dinh said.

Living in the coastal region, Vu Duc Thuan in Thanh Hoa province’s Hau Loc district understands the value of submerged forest to his livelihood. He has raised a total of 500 ducks with feed sourced from the forest, which has helped double his income.

He revealed the he can save money that he would spend on food for ducks thanks to the mangrove forest. The ducks can eat snails found in the forest and produce good quality eggs.

The mangrove forest in the locality also helps protect the coastal ecosystem and benefits local people. When harvest is over, the locals can earn 50-100,000 VND a day from catching crabs or fish living in the mangrove forest.

Dung said the State has issued policies to encourage the community to join hands to protect mangrove forests by giving them the rights to manage, protect and benefit from the forests. This is an effective way to restore and develop the mangrove forests in our country in a sustainable manner.

However, the policies are still part of the general forestry guidelines. There should be separate policies and mechanisms for mangrove forests. Added to this, local people and authorities should be educated to raise their awareness of protecting and developing the mangrove forests.-VNA