Policies Drive Sub-National Forest Transitions in Vietnam
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionForests. 2020, 11(10), 1038 https://doi.org/10.3390/f11101038
Vietnam has seemingly been able to shortcut the forest transition (FT) by quickly moving to the reforestation phase. Provincial-level forest cover and socio-economic trends are, however, not necessarily compatible with a standard FT framework. This article compares forest cover change and associated policy reforms in two provinces. Bac Kan is one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, and has, after years of deforestation and forest degradation, expanded its forest cover during the past two decades. In contrast, Lam Dong province has higher GDP and population density, but has had high deforestation linked to expansion of perennial crops. This is contrary to what could be expected from a conventional FT hypothesis. Land use dynamics in Vietnam is heavily driven by its historical heritage related to the independence from French rule and heavy state-control and collectivization, and its more recent shift to “market-led socialism” (doi moi), involving export promotion, decentralization and land tenure reforms. The Vietnam experience shows that policies can trump the typical FT patterns linked to general development trends and structural changes, and that the typical FT-trajectory is not unavoidable. Yet, these policies have not primarily been guided by forest concerns, but should be viewed as a side effect of the doi moi policies pursuing economic growth and of the devolution of rights and decision-making.