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Effective advocacy for forestland allocation by Vietnamese land coalition
The Vietnamese land coalition Forland organized an exchange visit together from 19th to 23rd September 2016with the Cambodian land coalition Star Kampuchea to Quang Binh Province, Central Viet Nam. They were joined by the land coalition of Laos, Land Issue Working Group, the Myanmar land coalition Land Core Group, the Cambodian NGO Forum, one representative from LANDA, one representative from Pan Nature and two MRLG National Land Governance facilitator, Cambodia and Myanmar. This exchange was supported by MRLG, as part of a regional Learning and Alliance program to support the strengthening and peer to peer learning of the four country land networks and coalitions.
The highlight of the visit was the field trip to the Ma Lieng Ethnic Communities of Lam Hoa Commune and the local authorities at the Xuan Trach Commune. In the first visit, participants learnt about the forest land use rights that have been given to the ethnic community. The Ma Lieng people are living in three different villages because some households have been resettled when the State Forest Companies were established in the area. At that time, the community lost all their rights to use the forest land and were living in poverty. When CIRD, a Viet Nam based civil society organization and member of Forland, came into the area, they advocated for better livelihood conditions for the ethnic communities with the local authorities, people’s committee (local and district level), party committee and Tuyen Hoa Protection Forest Management Board. After organizing several meetings demonstrating the livelihood difficulties faced by the community, they managed to secure forest land use rights for the Ethnic Community. Now they can collect non-timber forest products (NTFP) and plant Acacia for an income in degraded forests lands. Women are playing a special role in the protection of the forest, because they spend more time in the forest collecting NTFP and they observe when outsiders come in. In the last years, the Provincial government has invested in better infrastructure for ethnic minorities, however they still do not have nearly sufficient agricultural land for their livelihood. They depend on the State to provide rice for their consumption 10 months per year.
The second visit was in Xuna Trach commune, where the group met the local authorities and the Lam Hoa Commune People’s committee to understand land governance issues. For many years land conflicts, disputes and encroachment between local households and forestry companies have been happening. Most of the local people that are living in this area joined a migrations program in the 90’s. Most of them received a migration certificate to acknowledge their resettlement, but only a small part of forest land was allocated to them in this process. People from the program started to work for the State Forest Companies, but were not well paid and their own timber was sold at very low price. They continue to live in poverty. They have received support from CIRD since 2002 to advocate for re-allocation of State Forest Lands back to the local communities by collecting evidence, documenting the situation and organizing forums with media.
Since 2005 some land has been given back from some companies to local households, but again, it is not sufficient, and sometimes it is of bad quality or too far away. To prevent conflicts, it is important that communities make collective complaints and they ask CSO to help direct them to the appropriate authorities. The local authorities and the people’s committee of the commune have shown concerns about the land conflicts. Together with CIRD/Foreland they are addressing the problems to the higher levels (district and province), but it is a long process.
The land coalitions visiting these two experiences were very interested by the advocacy process supported by Forland, and encourage their colleagues to continue with strong support for more empowerment of the communities. The next visit for the land coalitions will be in Myanmar in 2017, hosted by the Land Core group. All participants are very excited to visit Land Core Group advocacy experiences there.