The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has awarded the 2013 Vietnam Environmental Award to the Nung ethnic community in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang for their solutions to protect, use rationally and develop natural resources.

The province’s Phuc Sen commune is home to around 2,000 Nung, who live in stilt houses and make a living from farming and the traditional craft of hand-forged agricultural tools, said Chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee Linh Van Phu.

Before, local people often fetched firewood from forests to serve their forging trade due to a lack of arable land. The deforestation resulted in stifling air, unusually cold or hot weather, dwindling rainfall and arid land that make the locals’ daily lives very difficult.

In response, the Party Committee and the commune’s authorities launched a campaign to plant, protect and develop forests, which received a warm response from residents. Community forestry was protected while management and protective regulations in line with each hamlet’s real conditions and customs were established.

A tree that can grow easily on limestone and has an ability to quickly regenerate, known locally as Mac Dac or Dau Di, was discovered in the region. This kind of plant, once mature, is able to create favourable conditions and moisture for other plants to develop, as well as ensure enough charcoal for the local community to maintain their traditional forging craft.

Many neighbouring communes came to learn and follow the local community-based forest model that proved so successful, thus contributing to a local and regional sustainable ecological and environmental landscape.

Following the flourishing community-based forest management style, Phuc Sen commune is benefiting from a project to promote Mekong sub-region sustainable development, which aims to develop Pac Rang hamlet as an ecological destination and traditional forging craft village.

So far, the project has fulfilled several works such as upgrading the local roads, drainage system, cultural houses and stilt houses. The entire project will be completed by the end of 2013.-VNA